• Question: @Paige have your mice had any specialised mutations that make them better evolved or is it mainly behaviour changes?

    Asked by katelyndon to Paige on 2 Mar 2020.
    • Photo: Paige Chandler

      Paige Chandler answered on 2 Mar 2020: last edited 3 Mar 2020 2:08 pm

      Hi katelyndon, thanks for your question.

      First it’s important to ask ourselves, what does ‘better evolved’ mean? Evolution isn’t about becoming faster, stronger, smarter etc. – it’s about adapting to your environment to increase your chances of survival, by random changes in your genes that are naturally selected for. Random gene changes that are helpful, means the organism will survive and reproduce, meaning that genetic change will become more and more prevalent. Gene changes that aren’t helpful will die out.

      Sometimes that means becoming smarter, like humans have done – while fish don’t have to be smart, but they need to be able to breathe underwater. Humans are not more evolved than fish because we’re intelligent, and fish aren’t more evolved than humans because they can breathe underwater. A fish and a human have just adapted differently to better survive their environments.

      To apply this to your question, the mice I work with aren’t part of evolution, because they don’t experience natural selection – they are kept safe, warm, and fed by the scientists. There is no need for them to change how they survive. However, the reason we keep these mice is to artificially change their genes, in ways that we can control, in order to see how this changes how the mouse behaves. If we change a gene and the mice become more anxious, we know that gene is related to anxiety.

      I hope this answers your question 🙂