‘Extinct’ mouse returns to Australia

Survivors: Shark Bay mice are known for being strong and hardy. © Australian Wildlife Conservancy

Are mice the toughest creatures of them all? Scientists in Australia have discovered a species of mouse thought to have been extinct for 150 years. Despite challenges, it has survived.

What’s happening

Emily Roycroft and her team of researchers were confused. They were doing a DNA test on a mouse. The results were back and they showed that it was a Gould’s mouse.

But this was a shocking discovery. Because everyone thought the Gould’s mouse had gone extinct 150 years before.

Find out more

A recent study into mice in Australia has found that a breed of mouse thought to have died out is still alive.

The team running the study was led by a scientist called Emily Roycroft. After extra tests, she discovered there was more to the discovery. The Gould’s mouse has the same DNA as a more common breed called the Shark Bay mouse.

The Gould’s mouse was once common on the Australian mainland. But Shark Bay mice are only found on islands.

Emily and her team think the Gould’s mice were threatened when settlers arrived and brought cats. The lucky ones escaped to the islands and became known as Shark Bay mice.

Now, Gould’s mice are returning to the mainland once again.

Are mice the toughest creatures of them all?

Some say…

Yes! These small but mighty creatures survive against all the odds. Their toughness is extraordinary and inspiring. And they could also be lifesavers. By studying the way mice breathe and sleep, scientists hope to learn more about human illnesses to look for better treatments.

Others think…

No. Mice are not the best. What about crocodiles, who have lived on Earth for millions of years? Or moray eels that have grown a second jaw of teeth to fight off enemies. And then there are humans. We are not very big. We have small teeth and we are not as strong as rhinos or elephants. But we have survived and thrived.

You Decide

  1. What is the toughest animal you know?

Activities

  1. Write a story about a mouse who decides to leave home to follow a dream.

Some People Say...

“I think nature’s imagination is so much greater than man’s.”

Richard Phillips Feynman (1918 - 1988), American physicist

What do you think?

Word Watch

DNA
The material that carries all the information about how a living thing will look and function. Every living thing has DNA in all of its cells.
Gould’s mouse
The mouse was only declared officially extinct in 1990, but none have been found for 150 years.
Common
Although there are more Shark Bay mice in Australia, they are still in danger from predators like cats and dogs.
Breed
A particular kind or type of animal or plant.
Mainland
The largest part of an island country, rather than the smaller islands around it. Australia has 8,222 islands.
Settlers
British colonists first went to live in Australia in 1786.
Cats
The most common predators for the mice are pet or stray cats.

Subjects

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