Mutant Mice Taking over Remote Island

May 22, 2008 10:44 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Giant carnivorous rodents with an appetite for baby birds are overrunning Gough Island in the Atlantic, endangering several rare seabird species.

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The mice attack albatross, petrel and shearwater chicks in their nests at night. The birds’ parents, having no experience with predators, are unable to ward them off.

In the mid-nineteenth century, whalers brought to the island the house mice who are the ancestors of today’s mutated predators. Their numbers have grown to about 700,000, and they are thought to be the largest mice in the world.

The isolated, British-owned territory located in the South Atlantic was once the perfect home for 22 seabird species because of its lack of predators. Scientists say it an important seabird colony and it has been designated a World Heritage Site. But the conservation group Birdlife International says that some of the species are now in danger of becoming extinct.

“Things are getting worse on Gough. In the presence of house mice, the albatross and bunting have no chance of survival. The only hope for these threatened birds is the complete eradication of mice,” said Dr. Geoff Hilton, an RSPB scientist. “The world’s greatest seabird island is being eaten alive.”

Off the island, birds are not faring much better; the International Union for Conservation of Nature reports that climate change is affecting one in eight birds.

Several conservation groups recently released a report saying that more than one-quarter of the world’s wildlife has been lost since 1970, a rate “unprecedented since the extinction of the dinosaurs.”

Headline Links: ‘Giant carnivorous mice threaten world’s greatest seabird colony’

Related Topics: Other weird creatures and extinction dangers

Species in danger

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