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Mouse Believed to Have Gone Extinct 150 Years Ago Discovered in Australia

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Scientists in Australia discovered a native mouse species, that was thought to have gone extinct 150 years ago.

In a recent discovery, scientists have chanced upon a species of mouse native to Australia that was thought to have extinct 150 years ago. The native species, Gould’s mice have been found to live on islands off West Australia.

Researchers further compared the DNA samples from eight extinct native rodents and 42 of their living relatives, to conclude that the ‘extinct’ was indistinguishable from the Shark Bay mouse, which is found on several small islands off the coast of Western Australia, reports The Guardian.

The study, that was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America or PNAS, has helped scientists understand better what must have led to the decline of native species since the arrival of Europeans in Australia.

Australian National University evolutionary biologist Emily Roycroft said native mice accounted for 41 per cent of all the Australian mammals that had become extinct since European colonisation started in 1788 and now it’s and the resurrection of the species is a positive sign “in the face of the disproportionally high rate of native rodent extinction," adds the report.

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The decline of the species could likely be due to a mix of human impacts.

Gould’s mouse, Pseudomys gouldii, was common and widespread in eastern inland Australia before the European settlement in the continent. Named after renowned English ornithologist John Gould’s wife, Elizabeth, it had disappeared potentially due to ‘introduced cats’ after the 1840s.

The mouse appeared relatively smaller than black rats and lived socially in small groups, digging a burrow up to 15cm under the bushes.

A few weeks earlier, a plague of mice that had ravaged vast swathes of eastern Australia forced the evacuation of a prison while authorities repaired gnawed electrical wiring and clear dead and decaying mice from walls and ceilings.

Around 200 staff and 420 inmates would be transferred from the Wellington Correctional Center in rural New South Wales state to other prisons in the region during the next 10 days while cleaning and repairs took place.

“The health, safety and wellbeing of staff and inmates is our No. 1 priority so it’s important for us to act now to carry out the vital remediation work," authorities had said.

Millions of mice have caused havoc in the grain-growing region of Australia’s most populous state for months, devouring crops and haystacks as well as invading homes, businesses, schools, hospitals and prisons.

(with inputs from AP)

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first published:July 04, 2021, 12:44 IST