New York City Rats Have Distinct 'Uptown' and 'Downtown' Populations

A new study by a Fordham University graduate student claims there are significant genetic differences between rat subpopulations in Manhattan...just like the human populations of the city.

Matthew Combs has been studying urban rats for years, sequencing their DNA and getting a picture of how the rats' environments have shaped their genetics.

Combs tells The Atlantic that a significant change in the rats' DNA occurs on either side of Midtown.

Of course Midtown is rat-infested like the rest of the city, but the tourist-central zone lacks the same high volume of household trash that rats feed on uptown, downtown and elsewhere in the other boroughs. 

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

Manhattan's rats are presumed to have arrived on the island with Western European colonists sometime in the mid-18th century.

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Photo: Getty Images

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