Tube mice - deep down underground dwellers
Mice are well-known for their adaptability to survive in different environments. But London's Underground must be one of the most unnatural for them imaginable. Yet the mice thrive ...
Both tourists and regulars late-night travellers on London's Underground will have seen these tiny black mice, both on the platform and scurrying under the the tracks. Wherever litter bug humans exist, so do mice.
It is thought that up to half a million mice live in the Underground. With most stations in central London presenting little access to the outside world, they subsist almost entirely on a diet of discarded food. Professors at Imperial College London have found that their stressful living conditions have changed these resilient rodents’ biochemistry: they move faster and eat less than their above-ground counterparts.
These tiny, scurrying flashes of fur have made a home in one of the most inhospitable habitats imaginable. On average, the tube handles up to five million passenger journeys a day. There can be trains zooming through minutes apart and loading and unloading their passengers during peak times. It is an incredibly dangerous and stressful environment for a small and sensitive mammal. Very few cats though! The tube mice are more likely to be seen at quiet times than in the rush hour.
Tube mice are house mice. They are generally furtive and pretty harmless to humans, though in 2012 a message was written on Farringdon Station's noticeboard advising commuters to tuck their trousers into their socks after a spate of rogue mice attacks - though it's thought this was a prank.
A photograph of a pair of sparring London tube mice by photographer Sam Rowley was featured recently in the annual Wildlife Photographer exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London, and attracted much press attention.
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