Neotomodon alstoniMexican volcano mouse

Geographic Range

The range of Mexican volcano mice is restricted to the Nearctic Region in high elevation pine-oak forests along the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. They can be found as far West as the Mexican state of Colima, to the state of Pico de Orizaba in the East. In this region, Mexican volcano mice are found at elevations ranging from 2,590 to 4,267 m. (Davis and Follansbee, 1945)

Habitat

Mexican volcano mice are terrestrial, living at elevations between 2,590 to 4,267 m throughout the Transverse Neovolcanic Ridge located in central Mexico. They live in subtropical oak-pine forests throughout their range, in areas with an abundance of Sacaton grass as ground cover. (Davis and Follansbee, 1945)

  • Range elevation
    2,590 to 4,267 m
    to ft

Physical Description

There is no sexual dimorphism in Mexican volcano mice. Recorded masses range from 43 to 61 g in adult males and females. Pregnant females have recorded masses from 57.7 grams to 65.8 g. Recorded lengths range from 176 to 233 mm from their snouts to the tips of their tails. Their bodies are 100 to 130 mm, while their tails measure 70 to 105 mm. Their fur color ranges from gray to reddish brown on their backs to whitish on their undersides. Mexican volcano mice are most closely related to deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus). However, they differ in several skull characteristics. The average zygomatic branch breadth of Mexican volcano mice has been recorded as 15.3 mm, compared to that of deer mice, which have an average zygomatic branch breadth of 12.9 to 13.33 mm. Mexican volcano mice also have slightly longer maxillary tooth rows, averaging 5.1 mm long, compared to deer mice, whose molar tooth rows measure between 4.2 to 4.41 mm. (Davis and Follansbee, 1945)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    43 to 61 g
    1.52 to 2.15 oz
  • Range length
    176 to 233 mm
    6.93 to 9.17 in

Reproduction

It is believed that testosterone levels in male Mexican volcano mice result in a high level of parental care in laboratory conditions. It has been observed that these males provide their pups similar levels of care compared to females. This bi-parental care suggests a monogamous mating system. Both male and female parents display behaviors such as huddling, grooming, and retrieving young, as well as maintaining and protecting their nests. (Glendinning and Brower, 1990)

The breeding season of Mexican volcano mice spans from early June to September, peaking in the dry spring months of April and May. They produce two or more litters averaging at 3.4 altricial young per year, with an average gestation period of 27 days. Young may mature sexually and bear young of their own during the same season in which they themselves are born. They reach sexual maturity around 90 to 174 days. Weaning does not occur until at least 30 days postpartum, and young open their eyes at 18 to 20 days. (Glendinning and Brower, 1990; Luis, et al., 2000)

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Breeding interval
    On average, Mexican volcano Mouse breed twice or more per year.
  • Breeding season
    June to September.
  • Average number of offspring
    3.4
  • Average gestation period
    27 days
  • Average weaning age
    30 days
  • Average time to independence
    30 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    90 to 174 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    90 to 174 days

The only recorded parental behavior in N. alstoni has been in laboratory conditions, where it is observed that both males and females care extensively for the young for up to 36 days after birth. Huddling, grooming, sniffing, and nest maintenance are behaviors performed by both parents. However, males spent more time, on average, performing these behaviors. (Luis, et al., 2000)

Lifespan/Longevity

The exact lifespan of Mexican volcano mice is not currently known, however laboratory observations suggest that they can live up to 5 years. (Ayala-Guerrero, et al., 1998)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    5 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    5 years

Behavior

When observed in the wild, Mexican volcano mice display nocturnal behavior and are are active almost entirely at night. Their complex social structures are not fully understood, but males have been observed to show subordination to their mates. They invest more parental care into their young, and spend more time performing parental behaviors after birth than females. They create shallow, simple burrows on well drained areas. These burrows average 50 mm in diameter. It is believed that Mexican volcano mice also utilize burrows constructed by other mammals, such as southern pocket gophers (Thomomys umbrinus). (Davis and Follansbee, 1945; Luis, et al., 2000)

Home Range

Little is known about the home ranges of Mexican volcano mice.

Communication and Perception

Little has been recorded with regards to the communication and social system of Mexican volcano mice. However, it has been observed that males show subordination to their female partners during the breeding season, and will lay down and turn over on their backs when females takes on an aggressive stance. Females then climb on top of their mates and sniff their genital area. (Luis, et al., 2000)

Food Habits

Mexican volcano mice have an omnivorous diet, consisting of various grains and insects. In captivity, they have been known to thrive on a diet of Purina rat chow. (Ayala-Guerrero, et al., 1998)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts

Predation

Mexican volcano mice create burrows underground, where they spend time nesting and giving protection from predators. (Davis and Follansbee, 1945)

Ecosystem Roles

N. alstoni cohabit much of their range with other small mammals, however not much is known about the impacts they have on their given ecosystem, but they have been observed consuming monarch butterflies in their habitat during overwintering aggregations. While not much is known about their role as prey, one can speculate that the Great Horned Owl (Bubo virginianus), which is also found in this region, is a possible predator of N. alstoni due to its known diet of other species in the order rodentia. (Glendinning and Brower, 1990; Llnas-Gutierrez, et al., 1991)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Given their low concern status, high abundance, and ability to thrive in captivity, Mexican volcano mice have shown to be exceptional candidates for laboratory research and experiments. They can also serve as house pets for these reasons. (Ayala-Guerrero, et al., 1998; Miranda-Anaya, et al., 2018)

  • Positive Impacts
  • pet trade
  • research and education

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known negative economic effects of Mexican volcano mice on humans.

Conservation Status

Mexican volcano mice are listed as “least concern” on the IUCN Red list. No range shifts for this species have been identified, but Mexican volcano mice are only found in the oak-pine forests in this region, so climate change and deforestation are threats to their habitat. (Davis and Follansbee, 1945; Miranda-Anaya, et al., 2018)

Contributors

Isabel Netelenbos (author), University of Washington, Laura Prugh (editor), University of Washington, Galen Burrell (editor).

Glossary

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

fossorial

Referring to a burrowing life-style or behavior, specialized for digging or burrowing.

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

omnivore

an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

References

Ayala-Guerrero, F., J. Ramos, L. Vargras-Reyna, G. Mexicano. 1998. Sleep Patterns of the Volcano Mouse Neotomodon alstoni alstoni. Physiology and Behavior. US National Library of Medicine, 64: 577-580. Accessed June 07, 2019 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9761235.

Davis, W., L. Follansbee. 1945. The Mexican Volcano Mouse Neotomodon. Journal of Mammalogy, 26: 401-411. Accessed June 07, 2019 at https://www.jstor.org/stable/1375160?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents.

Glendinning, J., L. Brower. 1990. Feeding and Breeding Responses of Five Mice Species to Overwintering Aggregations of the Monarch Butterfly. Journal of Animal Ecology, 59: 1091-1112. Accessed June 07, 2019 at https://www.jstor.org/stable/5034?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents.

Llnas-Gutierrez, J., G. Arnuad, M. Acevedo. 1991. Food Habits of the Great Horned Owl (Bubo Virginianus) In the Cape Region of Lower California and Mexico. Journal of Raptor Research, 25: 140-141. Accessed June 07, 2019 at https://sora.unm.edu/sites/default/files/journals/jrr/v025n04/p00140-p00141.pdf.

Luis, J., A. Carmona, J. Delgado, F. Cervantes, R. Cardenas. 2000. Parental Behavior of the Volcano Mouse, Neotomodon alstoni, in Captivity. Journal of Mammalogy, 81: 600-605. Accessed June 07, 2019 at https://academic.oup.com/jmammal/article/81/2/600/2373102.

Miranda-Anaya, M., M. Perez-Mendoza, C. Juarez-Tapia, A. Carmona-Castro. 2018. TheVolcano Mouse Neotomodon alstoni of Central Mexico, a Biological Model in the Study of Breeding, Obesity and Circadian Rhythms. General and Comparative Endocrinology. US National Library of Medicine, 273: 61-66. Accessed June 07, 2019 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29702105.