The domestic mouse came to Madeira four centuries before the Portuguese colonization

A study made by the Higher Council for Scientific Research of Spain (CSIC) suggests that four centuries before the Portuguese colonization Man had already been on the island of Madeira.This was based on the dating of ancient bones found in an archaeological expedition held in São Lourenço. The results published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, indicate that the domestic mouse came to Madeira before 1036, probably introduced from ships that passed through there. Current populations of this species in Madeira have similarities, at the mitochondrial DNA level, with the populations of Scandinavia and northern Germany, and not with those of Portugal. This aspect indicates that the Vikings probably introduced the domestic mouse to this island. It is a study that needs further research under Josep Antoni Alcover, researcher at the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies (CSIC-IMEDEA), because there are no historical references of the Vikings traveling to the Macaronesian region. The researcher also highlights the fact that, due to their high reproductive potential, the mice have probably reached high population densities, generating major changes in the natural ecosystem, including the extinction of endemic and non-endemic birds, at least four hundred years earlier than thought until now.


Rando JC, Pieper H, Alcover JA. 2014 Radiocarbon evidence for the presence of mice on Madeira Island (North Atlantic) one millennium ago. Proc. R. Soc. B 281: 20133126.