Variation in pattern of mystacial vibrissae in mice. A quantitative study of ICR stock and several inbred strains

J Hered. 1984 Sep-Oct;75(5):326-36.


We report on the variation in the pattern of mystacial vibrissae in ICR mice, of which one-half of the about 600 animals investigated showed one or more supernumerary whiskers (SWs). The SWs and their follicles--in all respects identical to the units of the standard pattern except for their smaller size--occurred at a restricted number of sites. In addition, a limited number of mice from two BALB/c strains were analyzed. Half of them also had one or more SWs, but mainly at one site. Mice of the C3H/HeJ and DBA/2J(a) strains were virtually without SWs, whereas animals from the NMRI strain were standard without exception. Nearly all animals of the C57BL/6J strain lacked between 1 and 4 vibrissae, always from one or two of the same adjacent sites. There was a slight overall predominance for the left side of the face to bear SWs and there was no clear-cut association with sex; the entire population was without obvious defects. The sites where extra or lacking whiskers occur are associated with the lines of fusion between the medial and the lateral nasal fold, and between the latter and the maxillary arch. Where tested, we always found a topologic equivalency between the pattern of the whisker follicles and the contralateral pattern of the "barrels"--multineuronal units in layer IV of the parietal cerebral cortex--whether the pattern was standard, "enriched," or lacking in elements. The data presented in this paper provided a basis for several studies carried out subsequently on animals that are the offspring of those characterized here, studies suggesting that the occurrence of supernumerary and of lacking whiskers has a genetic basis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred Strains / anatomy & histology*
  • Mice, Inbred Strains / genetics
  • Vibrissae / anatomy & histology*