A mouse that was declared extinct and hadn’t been seen in more than a hundred years has been rediscovered on an Australian island. What’s even more amazing is that the little mouse with shaggy fur and big black eyes is listed under a completely different name.
A team of researchers were analyzing DNA samples collected from 42 living rodents and 8 extinct ones from Australia. During their analysis, they discovered that a small group of the extinct Gould’s mouse (also known as Pseudomys gouldii) is living on an island that is located off the coast of Western Australia. Oddly enough, it is currently named the Shark Bay mouse (Pseudomys fieldi) even though it is the exact same rodent. (A picture of the Gould’s mouse can be seen here.)
This means that the Gould’s mouse never actually went extinct. Incredibly, the current mice are located more than 4,000 kilometers (2,485 miles) from where they were last seen back in the mid-to-late 1800s on the mainland. As for how they ended up on Bernier Island in Shark Bay, Dr. Emily Roycroft from the Australian National University suggested that they probably traveled there thousands of years ago when the islands were still connected to the mainland. “Slowly as the sea level rose, a little pocket of the population may have got trapped there,” she stated.
While it is very exciting that the mouse has been rediscovered, experts now have to focus on making sure that it doesn’t go extinct as it is currently listed as an endangered species. “Given this species occurs in such an isolated and single location, establishing captive breeding colonies and additional wild populations should be a priority,” said Euan Ritchie who is a wildlife ecologist at Deakin University but wasn’t involved with the study.
This is very important as Australia is home to some of the planet’s most unique creatures – 86% of their mammals are only found there. Unfortunately, many of their mammals have been lost since Europeans arrived on the continent back in 1788. In fact, 34 land species have become extinct with native rodents making up almost half of them.
The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences where it can be read in full.