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A su-cute-lent rodent

Updated: Jun 5, 2020

The cactus mouse (Peromyscus eremicus) is a small desert-adapted rodent living in the deserts of the North America southwest. Its desert adaptations are so extreme that it can stop producing urine to conserve water and show minimal signs of physiological stress. If you were exposed to the conditions the cactus mouse is usually exposed to, both in terms of high temperature and dehydration, you will die pretty soon, surely in less than 3 days. These cactus mice thrive under these extreme conditions instead!

Cactus mouse, photo by Anna Tigano

In the MacManes Lab at the University of New Hampshire (USA), we study the genomic and physiological basis of the cactus mouse desert adaptations. Not only is the cactus mouse a very evolutionarily and physiologically interesting species, but it also is amenable to life in captivity. Taken together, this makes the species an ideal candidate to combine lab experiments and field work to understand what traits make it so well fit to life in the desert and the genomic and physiological basis of these traits.

Recently, we produced a chromosome-level assembly of the cactus mouse genome to enable population, comparative and functional genomics analyses to identify genes associated with adaptation (including to deserts) and speciation in this and other species (Tigano et al. 2020; plus a lot of more work currently in progress). As we assembled more Peromyscus genomes in collaboration with DNA Zoo (e.g., Peromyscus crinitus and P. nasutus) we realized that the cactus mouse genome presented a few assembly errors. So today, we are happy to share the 2.0.0 version of the cactus mouse genome assembly, corrected and reordered using the Hi-C data generated using the T.C. Hsu Cryo-Zoo at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center cell line collection. This new corrected assembly is timely as we start to look in the chromosomal rearrangements that are associated with adaptation and speciation in Peromyscus mice.

This assembly has a contig N50 = 20Kb and a scaffold N50 = 122Mb.

Tigano A, Colella JP, MacManes MD. 2020. Comparative and population genomics approaches reveal the basis of adaptation to deserts in a small rodent. Molecular Ecology, 29(7), 1300-1314.


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