Mice evolve to be new icon, according to articles in New Scientist news, BBC News and ScienceDaily 27 Aug 2009, and Science, vol. 325, p1095, 28 August 2009. Deer Mice are a rodent found in many habitats throughout North America. Most of them are a dark grey-brown colour, but a population living in sand hills in Nebraska have pale coats, similar in colour to the sand they live on. Harvard University biologists Catherine Linnen and Hopi Hoekstra of Harvard University have found the genetic difference that makes the sand hill mice pale compared with the dark wild type. The light coloured mice have a mutation in a gene named Agouti which results in a deletion of an amino acid. The gene is also overactive in the pale mice. Mice with the mutant Agouti have wide bands of reddish yellow pigment in their dorsal hairs giving the animal an overall sandy colour. Because the pale mice showed much greater genetic uniformity than the dark forms the researchers believe the mutation arose fairly recently. According to Catherine Linnen, “An older mutation would show lots of variation.” The scientists also analysed the strength of natural selection in favour of pale mice on sandy soil and concluded that predation would drive virtually all individuals in the area toward pale coloration within 8,000 years. The sand hills are believed to have been formed about 10,000 years ago.

The pale colour means the mice are harder to see against light sandy soils and therefore less likely to be caught by predatory birds. The research team estimated the pale fur gave mice a 0.5% survival advantage. Hopi Hoekstra commented: “It doesn’t seem that much, but multiplied over thousands of individuals over hundreds of years, it makes a huge difference.”

New Scientist and BBC suggest the mouse will become an icon of evolution like the peppered moth, especially as the gene change that caused the colour difference has been identified. Hoekstra commented: “Despite the fact that the peppered has been an icon of ‘evolution in action’, we don’t yet know the genetic changes involved Once researchers find the pigmentation gene responsible for moth colour change, they can do the same types of analyses we have done. It will be really interesting to compare these estimates between mice and men.” Catherine Linnen commented: “Ours is a very complete story. We’ve been able to connect changes at DNA level to the ability of deer mice to survive in nature.”

BBC, New Scientist, ScienceDaily

Editorial Comment: These scientists may have a complete story involving mutation and selection, but unless you are willing to call deletion and the resulting loss of pigment an evolutionary change, that story is not evolution. This mutation involves a loss of genetic information and is a minor variation that does not change the mice into another species, or provide any clue as to where the genes for hair colour came from in the first place. It is only good for mice that live in a sandy environment where there are predators that hunt by sight. In another environment, e.g. dark soils, it would be a disadvantage and would soon be weeded out.

Like the dark and light peppered moths, the dark and light forms of the mice are still the same species, and the only reason to describe either moths or mice as “icons” is that evolution fulfils the desperate need of some to deny the truth of created kinds. Evolution is actually a belief by faith that needs to have symbolic images to help people keep the faith. The conclusions of these researchers is yet more evidence of how many of them are wearing Darwin’s Glasses, i.e. define evolution as change, then call all change evolution, then accept any change as proof of evolution, then turn around and claim such change disproves creation. It is time to take them off, and admit that mice turning into degenerate mice is no help at all to Darwin or Dawkins, Attenborough or Aitkins. (Ref. wildlife, camouflage, pigmentation)

Evidence News, 19 Nov 2009