Evolutionary Genomics of the Black Rat

Investigating the genomes of black rats

The story of the black rat, Rattus rattus, is closely intertwined with human history. As one of the planet’s most successful commensal species, black rats have adapted to anthropogenic environments and human landscapes so effectively that despite originating in tropical regions of Asia, today they are distributed across six continents. Rats have had a remarkable impact on people and ecosystems, serving as vectors for diseases such as the bubonic plague, precipitating extinctions and drastically altering the ecology of the regions they colonize alongside their human dispersers.

Despite the close link between humans and Rattus rattus, the complete genome of the black rat has yet to be sequenced. This project integrates cutting edge genomic sequencing and aDNA techniques with archaeological data in order to understand the coevolution of humans and rats, and to characterize the role of this important species in processes such as globalization, ecosystem transformation, and the evolution and spread of human disease.

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