Hide and Squeak: Team to investigate threatened mouse species

New Holland mouse study supported by Queensland Government grant

A chance sighting of a threatened mouse species has sparked a new conservation project, focused on determining the habitat and distribution of the small rodents in Queensland.

University of Southern Queensland lecturer Dr Meg Edwards was on a student field trip in Emu Creek, when the team caught a New Holland Mouse – the northernmost record of the species to date.

Dr Edwards and a team of colleagues will continue their research into the species after receiving a $40,257 grant from the Queensland Threatened Species Research Grants program.

Funded by the Queensland Government’s Department of Environment and Science (DES), the grant program seeks to build knowledge of the state’s threatened flora and fauna while assisting with each species’ recovery in the wild.

“Before our discovery in September, the northernmost sighting of a New Holland Mouse in Queensland had been in Crows Nest,” Dr Edwards said.

“When we found the mouse, I contacted a DES Threatened Species scientist– who got very excited.

“The New Holland Mouse is considered Endangered in Victoria and Tasmania and Vulnerable in Queensland, and they have quite a different habitat here than compared to the southern states.

“We will use this funding for a preliminary investigation into where the mice populations are in Queensland so that we can study their ecology and assess their biggest threats.”

While identifying species of rodents can prove challenging, Dr Edwards said the New Holland mouse had some distinctive features compared to the average house mouse.

“To identify rodents, we look at their size, their tail length relative to their head/body length, their ears and their foot pads,” Dr Edwards said.

“The New Holland mouse is quite a small species, under 20 g, that differs from the common house mouse as it doesn’t have a notch on its upper incisors.

“The size of the mouse, its location and some of its features helped us to narrow our identification down – but we sent the photos to an expert at DES to make sure.”

The project is a collaboration between three organisations: University of Southern Queensland researchers Associate Professor John Dearnaley, Dr Christina Birnbaum and Dr Meg Edwards, DES Threatened Species research scientist Dr Ian Gynther and the Turner Family Foundation.

Still in the preliminary stages, Dr Edwards said the project would include fieldwork at sites across southeast Queensland.

“We plan to conduct surveys in areas such as Ravensbourne, Crows Nest, the Helidon Hills, and Main Range National Park – places where we know they exist,” she said.

“From this, we will study the habitats in which they are found and identify other areas where they might be by developing species distribution models.

“It’s possible they might even be further north, which could be something we look at in future studies.”

Additionally, together with A/Prof Dearnaley and Dr Birnbaum, the project will look at the effects of the New Holland mouse on the soil fungal communities as digging mammals have shown to be important ecosystem engineers turning around soil, which contributes to nutrient release and soil fungal dispersal in ecosystems.

Learn more about wildlife management at the University of Southern Queensland.

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