Believed to be Extinct Gould’s mouse Makes a Reappearance After 150 Years
By Ella Chen
The Gould’s mouse has been thought to be extinct for over 150 years. Turns out, the species have been living on an island off of Western Australia.
Scientists compared DNA from 8 extinct species of mice and compared it with 42 species of their relatives. Scientists used museum specimens over 174 years old preserved by Museums Victoria and the Natural History Museum in London. They found that the DNA of the Gould’s mouse matched the DNA of a mouse native to Shark Bay, WA and their appearances were indistinguishable.
On the list of the extinct animals of Australia, 34 species of Australian mammals discovered are extinct, making up about 40% of the lost species. “It’s very exciting, I think everybody likes the idea of removing a species from the ever-growing list of extinct species in Australia,” said the study’s lead author, Dr Emily Roycroft. “We get to take a name off that list, which is great, but at the same time is quite sobering. It highlights a bigger issue … how quickly things can go catastrophically wrong for native species.”
The remaining populations of the Shark Bay mouse, also known as djoongari, were located on a single 42 square-kilometer (16.2 square-mile) island in Shark Bay, Bernier Island. Researchers said that the small population is not enough for any species to keep surviving, so the mice have been taken to two other islands to create new populations.
The link between the extinct Gould’s mouse and the djoongari was discovered by the Australian National University research team during genetic tests on these preserved specimens. “Because they’re so geographically separate, we initially expected that populations in Victoria and New South Wales would be quite genetically different from an island population off the coast of Western Australia,” Dr Roycroft said. She said the Shark Bay mouse, also known as Djoongari, would keep its common name but its scientific name would be changed to that of the Gould’s mouse, Pseudomys gouldii.