Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Clyde Keeler and Apollo Smintheus

Clyde Keeler went to Asia Minor to collect mice and search for new mutations. He claims that he was captured and tried for espionage in Turkey. Apparently officials found it hard to believe Harvard University would send someone so far just to catch mice.

He also had the chance to visit the temple on Tenedos:

“I wondered about the tiny Island of Tenedos at the mouth of the Dardanelles where stood the temple of Apollo God of Mice (Apollo Smintheus) since long before the Trojan War. Aristotle and other ancient writers told of the white mice raised under Apollo's altar. I went to Tenedos in 1930 and learned that in 1929 an albino house mouse was living in a garden shed a stone's throw from the site of the ancient temple of Apollo. Barring possible mutation, that could mean as much as 3,000 years of population inbreeding and with three generations a year the number of generations is staggering.”1

This cult started around 1400 B.C. and continued until at least A.D.1453. In comparison, modern strains of laboratory mice have been inbred for about 100 years. I wonder if any descendants of the sacred mice of Apollo Smintheus are still wandering about Tenedos. Now that would be an interesting genome to sequence!

To whet your appetite for more, here’s a juicy tidbit from the world of laboratory mice: Super-sized mice

Keeler, Clyde, “How it began” In: Morse, H.C., III, (Ed.) (1978)
Origins of Inbred Mice
. Academic Press, New York. http://www.informatics.jax.org/morsebook/