California mouse

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California mouse
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Cricetidae
Genus: Peromyscus
Species group: P. californicus
Species: P. californicus
Binomial name
Peromyscus californicus
(Gambel, 1848)

The California mouse (Peromyscus californicus) is a species of rodent in the family Cricetidae. It is the only species in the Peromyscus californicus species group. It is found in northwestern Mexico and central to southern California. It is largest Peromyscus species in the United States.[2][3]

While most rodents are polygamous, the California mouse pair bonds, making it a model organism for researchers studying the genetics and neurobiology of partner fidelity[4] and paternal care.


The California mouse has very large ears, and its tail is longer than the head and body combined. Including the tail, which is about 117 to 156 mm long, the mouse ranges in length from 220 to 285 mm. The coat is overall brown, mixed with black hairs. This dorsal colour shades to a creamy-white belly colour. The manus and feet are white.[2][5][6] Adults are large enough that they can be confused with juvenile pack rats.

Natural history[edit]

The California mouse is semiarboreal, but tends to nest on the ground, under debris such as fallen logs. Nests are insulated with coarse, dry grasses, weeds, and sticks, and fine grass is used as bedding in the center chamber.[7][8] P. californicus is more strongly territorial than P. maniculatus, with both sexes defending the nest site. Males are also aggressive toward one another; their fighting techniques involve jumping, avoidance, and a characteristic mewing cry.[9]

The California mouse pair bonds and the males help raise the young.[8][10][11] A litter usually consists of only two pups, but a pair may produce as many as six litters in a year. Gestation ranges from 21 to 25 days. Weaning occurs when the offspring are five to six weeks of age.[8][12]

The mouse's diet consists of shrub fruits, seeds, and flowers, such as of Rhus integrifolia, Lotus scoparius, and Salvia apiana.[13] They will also consume grasses, forbs, fungi, and arthropods.[14]

California mice are mostly active at night.[15] Their main predators are weasels and barn owls.[16][17]


  1. ^ Linzey, A.V., Timm, R., Álvarez-Castañeda, S.T. & Lacher, T. (2008). Peromyscus californicus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 27 August 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern.
  2. ^ a b Grinnell, J and Orr, RT 1934 (1934). "Systematic review of the californicus group of the rodent genus Peromyscus". Journal of Mammalogy 15 (3): 210–220. doi:10.2307/1373853. 
  3. ^ Musser, G. G. and M. D. Carleton. (2005). Superfamily Muroidea. pp. 894–1531 in Mammal Species of the World a Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder eds. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
  4. ^ Crossland, J. and Lewandowski, A. (2006). "Peromyscus – A fascinating laboratory animal model" (PDF). Techtalk 11: 1–2. 
  5. ^ Osgood, WH (1908). "Revision of the mice of the American genus Peromyscus". North Am. Fauna 28: 1–285. doi:10.3996/nafa.28.0001. 
  6. ^ Allen, JA (1896). "On mammals from the Santa Cruz Mountains, California". Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist. 8: 263–270. hdl:2246/752. 
  7. ^ Clark, FH (1936). "Geotropic behavior on a sloping plane of arboreal and non-arboreal races of mice of the genus Peromyscus". Journal of Mammalogy 17: 44–47. doi:10.2307/1374549. 
  8. ^ a b c McCabe, TT and BD Blanchard. 1950. Three Species of Peromyscus. Rood Associates, Santa Barbara, California.
  9. ^ Eisenberg, JF (1963). "The intraspecific social behavior of some Cricetine rodents of the genus Peromyscus". American Midland Naturalist 69: 240–246. doi:10.2307/2422858. 
  10. ^ Dudley, D. 1973. Paternal behavior in the California mouse (P. californicus) (Thesis) University of California.
  11. ^ Eisenberg, JF (1962). "Studies on the behavior of Peromyscus maniculatus gambelii and Peromyscus californicus parasiticus". Behavior 19 (3): 177–207. doi:10.1163/156853962X00014. 
  12. ^ Svihla, A (1932). "A comparative life history study of the mice of the genus Peromyscus" (PDF). Misc. Publ. Mus. Zool. Univ. Michigan 24: 1–39. 
  13. ^ Meserve, PL (1972) Resource and habitat utilization by rodents of the coastal sage scrub community (Thesis) University of California, Irvine.
  14. ^ Merritt, JF (1974). "Factors influencing the local distribution of Peromyscus californicus in northern California". Journal of Mammalogy 55: 102–114. doi:10.2307/1379260. 
  15. ^ Marten, GG (1973). "Time patterns of Peromyscus activity and their correlations with weather". Journal of Mammalogy 54: 169–188. doi:10.2307/1378878. 
  16. ^ Vestal, EH (1937). "Activities of a weasel at a woodrat colony". Journal of Mammalogy 18: 364. 
  17. ^ Von Bloeker, JC (1937). "Mammal remains from detritus of raptorial birds in California". Journal of Mammalogy 18: 360–361.