Tracking the near Eastern origins and European dispersal of the Western house mouse

  • Thomas Cucchi (Creator)
  • Katerina Papayianni (Creator)
  • Sophie Cersoy (Creator)
  • Laetitia Aznar-Cormano (Creator)
  • Antoine Zazzo (Creator)
  • Régis Debruyne (Creator)
  • Rémi Berthon (Creator)
  • Adrian Bălășescu (Creator)
  • Alan Simmons (Creator)
  • François Valla (Creator)
  • Yannis Hamilakis (Creator)
  • Fanis Mavridis (Creator)
  • Marjan Mashkour (Creator)
  • Jamshid Darvish (Creator)
  • Roohollah Siahsarvi (Creator)
  • Fereidoun Biglari (Creator)
  • Cameron A. Petrie (Creator)
  • Lloyd Weeks (Creator)
  • Alireza Sardari Zarchi (Creator)
  • Sepideh Maziar (Creator)
  • Christiane Denys (Creator)
  • David Clive Orton (Creator)
  • Emma Jenkins (Creator)
  • Melinda Zeder (Creator)
  • Jeremy B. Searle (Cornell University) (Creator)
  • Greger Larson (Creator)
  • François Bonhomme (Creator)
  • Jean-Christophe Auffray (Creator)
  • Jean-Denis Vigne (Creator)



The house mouse (Mus musculus) represents the extreme of globalization of invasive mammals. However, the timing and basis of its origin and early phases of dispersal remain poorly documented. To track its synanthropisation and subsequent invasive spread during the develoment of complex human societies, we analyzed 829 Mus specimens from 43 archaeological contexts in Southwestern Asia and Southeastern Europe, between 40,000 and 3,000 cal. BP, combining geometric morphometrics numerical taxonomy, ancient mitochondrial DNA and direct radiocarbon dating. We found that large late hunter-gatherer sedentary settlements in the Levant, c. 14,500 cal. BP, promoted the commensal behaviour of the house mouse, which probably led the commensal pathway to cat domestication. House mouse invasive spread was then fostered through the emergence of agriculture throughout the Near East 12,000 years ago. Stowaway transport of house mice to Cyprus can be inferred as early as 10,800 years ago. However, the house mouse invasion of Europe did not happen until the development of proto urbanism and exchange networks — 6,500 years ago in Eastern Europe and 4000 years ago in Southern Europe — which in turn may have driven the first human mediated dispersal of cats in Europe.

External deposit with Dryad.
Date made available13 Jan 2020
  • Tracking the Near Eastern origins and European dispersal of the western house mouse

    Cucchi, T., Papayiannis, K., Cersoy, S., Aznar-Cormano, L., Zazzo, A., Debruyne, R., Berthon, R., Bălășescu, A., Simmons, A., Valla, F., Hamilakis, Y., Mavridis, F., Mashkour, M., Darvish, J., Siahsarvi, R., Biglari, F., Petrie, C., Weeks, L., Sardari Zarchi, A., Maziar, S., & 9 othersDenys, C., Orton, D. C., Jenkins, E., Larson, G., Zeder, M., Searle, J., Bonhomme, F., Auffray, J-C. & Vigne, J-D., 19 May 2020, In: Scientific Reports. 10, p. 1-12 12 p., 8276.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Open Access

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