[UPDATE 8-28]From mousy to blonde - in 8,000 years
Added: Thu, 27 Aug 2009 23:00:00 UTC
Thanks to Carole for the linnk.
The mice, which switched from brunette to blonde, provided scientists with a vivid example of evolution at work.
The deer mice took 8,000 years to change the colour of their coats when they found themselves living among sand dunes.
They evolved the new look through natural selection after glaciers deposited sand on top of darker soil at Sand Hills, Nebraska, US.
Variants of a single gene determined whether a mouse was born dark brown or golden, researchers discovered.
Pale mice were harder for predators to see against a sandy background, so were more likely to survive and pass on their genes.
Brown-haired rodents, on the other hand, were in danger of being eaten before producing any offspring.
In the end, natural selection turned the whole mouse community blonde.
[UPDATE 8/28]A link to the BBC version of the article was sent in by a number of people.
Mouse set to be 'evolution icon'
Within just a few thousand years, generations of the mice have evolved a sandy-coloured coat camouflaging themselves from predators.
Most striking is that these mice acquired the mutation for pale fur naturally, then rapidly passed it on.
That makes the fast-evolving deer mouse one of the best examples yet studied of "true" natural selection in action.
Deer mice are one of the most abundant and widespread mammals in North America.
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