Researchers Uncover Newly Identified Native Mouse Species

Australia can now claim two new species of native rodents, thanks to a study from The Australian National University (ANU).

New Genetic Technology Uncovers Diversity in Delicate Mouse
Pseudomys Pilbarensis. Image Credit: Ian Bool

Previously, the delicate mouse was believed to be a single species, spanning a vast area from the Pilbara in Western Australia, across parts of the Northern Territory, through Queensland, and down to the New South Wales border.

However, researchers at ANU and CSIRO suspected that there might be more to the story. Lead author Dr Emily Roycroft from ANU stated that they have now confirmed the existence of three distinct species.

Thanks to new genetic technology, we’ve confirmed the delicate mouse is three species, not one. Identifying undescribed species and giving them official names goes a long way to making sure they're properly looked after.”

Dr Emily Roycroft, Study Lead Author, Australian National University

Dr Roycroft noted that while it might be challenging for the untrained eye to distinguish between the species, this discovery holds significant implications for the future conservation efforts of the delicate mouse.

Dr Roycroft says, “The two new species haven't had any conservation or research attention, because we didn’t know they were there. We don't know, for example, if population declines have gone undetected as a result of all three species being assessed as a single unit. The delicate mouse has not been a conservation priority -- but that’s because it was thought to have a distribution three times larger than it actually does. This will allow us to reassess.”

Dr Roycroft explained that the delicate mouse differs from the mice typically encountered in homes or backyards in several important aspects.

House mice, black rats, and brown rats are invasive species brought to Australia since European colonization. They're very different to native rodents, both evolutionary and ecologically. They compete with our native species for resources.”

Dr Emily Roycroft, Study Lead Author, Australian National University

Dr Roycroft says, “Delicate mice are part of a group of native rodents that have been evolving in Australia for the last five million years. They’re a crucial part of Australia’s natural environment and ecosystems. Delicate mice are our smallest Australian rodent - they can weigh as little as six grams, so they're really tiny.”

The study also revealed that delicate mice are highly adaptable to various environments, including arid deserts and forests.

The three species will now be referred to by common names that indicate their respective locations: the western delicate mouse or Pilbara delicate mouse, the eastern delicate mouse, and the northern delicate mouse.

Journal reference:

Roycroft, E., et al. (2024) Speciation across biomes: Rapid diversification with reproductive isolation in the Australian delicate mice. Molecular Ecology.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of AZoLifeSciences.
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