Poleward Expansion of the White-Footed Mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) under Climate Change: Implications for the Spread of Lyme Disease

Emilie Roy-Dufresne, Affiliations:   Department of Geography, McGill University, Montreal, Canada,  Redpath Museum, McGill University, Montreal, Canada

Travis Logan,  Affiliation:  Ouranos Consortium, Montreal, Canada       

Julie A. Simon,  Affiliation:  Redpath Museum, McGill University, Montreal, Canada               

Gail L. Chmura,  Affiliation:  Department of Geography, McGill University, Montreal, Canada               

Virginie Millien,   Affiliation:  Redpath Museum, McGill University, Montreal, Canada   E-mail: virginie.millien@mcgill.ca             
  • Published: Nov 18, 2013
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0080724


The white-footed mouse (Peromyscus leucopus) is an important reservoir host for Borrelia burgdorferi, the pathogen responsible for Lyme disease, and its distribution is expanding northward. We used an Ecological Niche Factor Analysis to identify the climatic factors associated with the distribution shift of the white-footed mouse over the last 30 years at the northern edge of its range, and modeled its current and potential future (2050) distributions using the platform BIOMOD. A mild and shorter winter is favouring the northern expansion of the white-footed mouse in Québec. With more favorable winter conditions projected by 2050, the distribution range of the white-footed mouse is expected to expand further northward by 3° latitude. We also show that today in southern Québec, the occurrence of B. burgdorferi is associated with high probability of presence of the white-footed mouse. Changes in the distribution of the white-footed mouse will likely alter the geographical range of B. burgdorferi and impact the public health in northern regions that have yet to be exposed to Lyme disease.

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