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Back from the dead: scientists discover a mouse believed to be extinct for 150 years

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The Shark Bay mouse is the same as the Gould mouse, which was believed to be extinct.

Wayne Lawler, Australian Wildlife Conservancy Photographer

We have good news and bad news. A mouse believed to be extinct turned out to be alive. Unfortunately, its discovery is also a sign of biodiversity loss in Australia.

Researchers had thought that the Gouldian mouse, a rodent native to Australia, had been extinct for more than 150 years. A team studying the decline of native species conducted a study comparing the DNA of eight extinct rodents with 42 live rodents. They discovered that the Gouldian mouse was the same as a living species known as the Shark Bay mouse.

The Shark Bay mouse can be found on islands off the coast of Australia, but it once thrived on the mainland before Europeans colonized the area. Native rodents account for 41% of mammalian extinctions in Australia since the late 18th century.

“It is exciting that the Gouldian mouse is still around, but its disappearance from the mainland highlights how quickly this species went from being distributed in most of Australia, to surviving only on offshore islands in Western Australia,” he added. biologist Emily Roycroft said in a statement from the Australian National University on Monday. “It is a huge demographic collapse.”

Roycroft is the lead author of a paper on rodents published in the PNAS daily. The Australian National University described the mouse rediscovery as a “shock finding”.

The study suggests that all eight extinct rodents once had large, widespread populations. Roycroft points to the impact of European colonization, including wild cats, the introduction of invasive species, and the clearing of land for agriculture, as the culprit for the loss of native species.

“We still have a lot of biodiversity to lose here in Australia,” Roycroft said, “and we are not doing enough to protect it.”

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