Elusive mouse edges close to extinction

March 23, 2015 by Rebecca Diete, University of Queensland
Elusive mouse edges close to extinction
The northern hopping mouse has been caught on camera for the first time

A University of Queensland researcher who has caught the endangered northern hopping mouse on camera for the first time believes the tiny mammal could be closer to the brink of extinction than previously thought.

UQ School of Agriculture and Food Sciences Ecology Lecturer and PhD candidate Rebecca Diete said population estimates of some of Australia's most elusive native animals often relied on indirect and potentially inaccurate measures.

"The northern hopping mouse is very shy and hard to track down, so have relied on counting spoil heaps – the piles of sand left behind when the mouse digs burrows," Ms Diete said.

"I found that some spoil heaps believed to belong to the northern hopping mouse were made by a different animal – the delicate mouse (Pseudomys delicatulus).

"The northern hopping mouse is listed as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature red list, so better survey methods and correct estimations of populations are vital.

"We shouldn't rely on signs of if we're not absolutely certain that it was that animal making them."

The northern hopping mouse (Notomys aquilo) has impressive engineering skills.

It builds extensive concealed burrows to hide from predators such as quolls, snakes and owls – and from curious scientists.

Ms Diete spent 12 months searching for the mouse on Groote Eylandt, 50 kilometres off the Northern Territory coast, before catching her first glimpse.

"The northern hopping mouse is about 10 centimeters long from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail, and it stands and hops along on its two hind legs like a little kangaroo, but it is a rodent related to rats and mice," she said.

"Through radio tracking, trapping and collecting footage over two and a half years of fieldwork, I was able to find out more about this little-known native."

She shared these findings, along with her rare footage of the northern hopping mouse, on Radio National's Off Track program this week.

Ms Diete said she hoped her research would lead to better northern hopping mouse conservation and encourage more accurate survey methods for other vulnerable and endangered species.

"Estimates of hopping mouse numbers made only from spoil heap assessments could be much higher than the reality," she said.

"There were 10 species of hopping mouse in Australia and in the past 200 years we've lost five of them. We need to understand and protect those that are left."

Explore further: Endangered kangaroo prefers 'the girl next door'

Related Stories

Endangered kangaroo prefers 'the girl next door'

January 29, 2013

(Phys.org)—A group of leading conservation scientists from The University of Queensland (UQ) and James Cook University (JCU) has exposed the private life of a small, endangered kangaroo.

HP releases dongle-less Wi-Fi mouse

May 12, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- When it comes to the computer, the mouse has become an essential piece of equipment, even when you are on the go. A wireless mouse allows you to do what you need to in order to get your work done. Keeping ...

Kickstarter Project Mousr: Mouse toy prey for your cat

November 11, 2014

A team at the University of Illinois known as Petronics has posted a project on Kickstarter named Mousr—it's a toy mouse for your cat that has smarts built in so that your cat won't grow bored with it.

Recommended for you

Coffee-based colloids for direct solar absorption

March 22, 2019

Solar energy is one of the most promising resources to help reduce fossil fuel consumption and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to power a sustainable future. Devices presently in use to convert solar energy into thermal ...

EPA adviser is promoting harmful ideas, scientists say

March 22, 2019

The Trump administration's reliance on industry-funded environmental specialists is again coming under fire, this time by researchers who say that Louis Anthony "Tony" Cox Jr., who leads a key Environmental Protection Agency ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.