Extinct Native Gould's mouse found thriving on islands off WA

An ‘extinct’ native mouse thought to have been wiped out more than 150 years ago is found thriving on islands off Australia

  • Native Gould’s mouse thought to be extinct found thriving on islands off WA 
  • Species common and widespread prior to European settlement in Australia
  • It was named after English ornithologist John Gould’s wife, Elizabeth 
  • Mouse disappeared rapidly after the 1840s, potentially due to introduced cats 

Scientists have discovered that an extinct native mouse thought to have been wiped out more than 150 years ago is thriving on islands off Western Australia.

Researchers compared DNA samples from eight extinct native rodents and 42 of their living relatives to study the decline of native species since the arrival of Europeans in Australia.

The results showed the extinct Gould’s mouse was indistinguishable from the Shark Bay mouse, which is found on several small islands off the coast of WA.

The native Gould’s mouse is thriving on islands off Western Australia despite the fact it was thought to have been wiped out more than 150 years ago

“The resurrection of this species brings good news in the face of the disproportionally high rate of native rodent extinction,” Australian National University evolutionary biologist Emily Roycroft said.

Dr Roycroft said native mice accounted for 41 per cent of all Australian mammals that had become extinct since European colonisation started in 1788.

“It is exciting that Gould’s mouse is still around, but its disappearance from the mainland highlights how quickly this species went from being distributed across most of Australia, to only surviving on offshore islands in Western Australia,” she said.

“It’s a huge population collapse.”

Gould’s mouse (Pseudomys gouldii) was common and widespread before European settlement in eastern inland Australia, according to the NSW environment department.

It was named after English ornithologist John Gould’s wife, Elizabeth and disappeared rapidly after the 1840s, potentially due to introduced cats.

Gould’s mouse (Pseudomys gouldii) was common and widespread before European settlement in eastern inland Australia, according to the NSW Environment Department

The mouse was slightly smaller than a black rat, and quite social, living in small family groups that sheltered by day in a nest of soft, dry grass in a burrow.

It usually dug burrows at a depth of 15cm under bushes.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America or PNAS.

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