Bianca M. Caraza, Global Animal

With so many new super hero sagas reemerging on Hollywood sets, it’s perfect timing for a new super breed to make itself known to scientists. While it would be cool to discover a man with gravity-resistant genes or a bullet-proof girl, this new breed isn’t actually human but a new species of mouse. Though the evolution of a poison-resistant rodent may not be as helpful as Spiderman, Superman, or Captain America, the world of science is nonetheless intrigued.

Scientists have discovered a mutated form of the European house mouse species immune to rat poison. Photo credit: Stefan Endepols, Bayer CropScience AG

This new mouse is actually a hybrid of two different species of mouse — the common European house mouse and the Algerian mouse. The immunity to warfarin, a deadly toxin commonly implemented against rodent infestations, is found in the DNA of the Algerian mouse, developing there, scientists believe, due to a vitamin K deficiency. Though the two species have greater genetic difference than that of humans and chimps and thus shouldn’t be able to breed, they somehow managed. The resulting species is a mutation of the European mouse with a chunk of DNA taken from the Algerian mouse which makes them immune to the many forms of warfarin. Like Marvel’s fictional X-Men, these new mice are better and stronger versions of their original species; they’re mutants.

Much like the army-made Captain America, this mouse was probably crafted by human hands—though, surprisingly, not in any kind of laboratory. The contact between the two species might never have happened if not for mankind’s agricultural endeavors, which often involve pesticides. Michael Kohn, leader of the research team which discovered the mutant mice, said, “Unprofessional and widespread use of poison seems to have favored the evolution and spread of resistant mice and rats. However, the novel thing reported here is that it has also enabled a potentially important process (hybridization) to turn up something advantageous that usually is not.”

The mice remain a dangerous pest to many European households. They also bring to light a very rational 21st century fear of humanity’s accidental creation of an invasive species or cure-resistant disease strain. However frightening an omen the mutant mice might be, their appearance remains an amazing feat which will baffle the minds of scientists and spark imaginations for years to come. Deftly capturing the sense of awe that most members of the scientific community felt, Kohn concluded, “we’ve caught evolution in the act.”

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