Birch mice in the CT system
Mr. Csaba Kiss, a PhD student of the Eötvös Loránd University, and Dr. Tamás Cserkész, a researcher of the Hungarian Natural History Museum and the project supervisor, said: “The birch mice we are studying are small, mouse-like rodents. Their earliest ancestors lived probably in the Himalayan Plateau some 17 million years ago, then they spread to the steppes of North America and Eurasia. During the long millions of years, however, their morphology, like the shape of their skull, remained unchanged, meaning we can regard them as a living fossil.” Their shape seems not to have changed. The researchers, however, found quite significant differences in their genetic material, i.e. DNA sequence. The reconstructed skull, created with the CT ZEISS METROTOM, is of great assistance in the understanding of this apparent morphological fixedness. The researchers received considerable technical support not only from their own institute, the Hungarian Natural History Museum, but also from the National Museum of Natural History at the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, and the Smithsonian Institute of Washington, which made their collections available to them.
Moreover, they sent the carefully packed samples to the researchers in Budapest. The collection in Washington has real rarities, i.e. species the specimen of which no other museum has. Such is the Kashmir Burch Mouse, which was described (and a few specimens of which were also collected) 100 years ago. However, nobody has met them ever since.