Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Inspired by Beatrix Potter

The Morgan Library in New York is currently showing some fabulous letters and art by one of my greatest heros, Beatrix Potter. Potter was especially fond of rabbits, and two of her pets, Peter and Benjamin are the inspiration for her most famous story, "The Tale of Peter Rabbit".

As a testament to the power of artificial selection, rabbits like the Flemish giant can weigh up to 20kg (about 50 pounds).
Flemish Giant Rabbit

Beach mice are subspecies of oldfield mouse (Peromyscus polionotus) that have evolved pale fur to match the pale sand they live on. Hopi Hoekstra and her lab have worked out exactly which mutations in which genes are responsible for this adaptive colouration.

Choctawhatchee beach mouse (Peromyscus polionotus allophrys)
As a Victorian, Potter wouldn't have seen these North American mice in the genus Peromyscus, but I think she would have liked them, with their enormous eyes and relatively infantile proportions.

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