‘Harlem’ And ‘Downtown’ Rats Are Actually Different

November 30, 2017

NY Post reports that “Uptown” rats are genetically different than “downtown” rats — and there’s also a distinction between “West Village” and “East Village” rats, a Fordham University grad student has discovered.

Matthew Combs and his team spent two years studying the DNA sequencing of local rodents and discovered that they have a different DNA makeup depending on where they live.

“Most notably, rats in the Midtown region exhibit increased inbreeding coefficients and reduced observed heterozygosity, but show higher levels of expected heterozygosity and nucleotide diversity, compared to rats in Downtown or Uptown,” according to the report.

Furthermore, Combs found rats in Upper Manhattan and the northern parts of Harlem West and Harlem Central were “differentiated” from those in Harlem East and the Upper West and Upper East sides.

“If you gave us a rat, we could tell whether it came from the West Village or the East Village,” Combs told The Atlantic. “They’re actually unique little rat neighbors.”

During their research, Combs said he studied the genetic sequencing of brown rats — trapping and releasing them along the way.

“Overall, this study uncovers the ongoing evolutionary processes shaping one of the world’s most prolific human pests in human-dominated environments, and suggests that even continuously distributed populations in urban landscapes may exhibit cryptic genetic discontinuities and fine-scale structuring in response to urban landscape heterogeneity,” Combs wrote in his findings.

Speaking to the Atlantic, he added: “They are, quote-unquote, vermin, and definitely pests we need to get rid of, but they are extraordinary in their own ways.”

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