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Shark Bay Mouse
Range and abundance
When first described, it was thought that this species had a current and historical distribution restricted to Shark Bay. However, the discovery and examination of sub-fossil evidence indicated that it was once considerably more widespread, occurring throughout south-western Western Australia and into central Australia. The Shark Bay mouse is now declared extinct in the Northern Territory and endangered (presumed extinct) in South Australia. Its range in Western Australia has drastically reduced and the species is now restricted to four offshore islands: Faure, Bernier, Doole and North West, where it is considered to be rare with a limited abundance.
Shark Bay mice are a rather robust species with a notably long and shaggy coat. Their fur is grizzled dark brown above and buff on the sides, and animals have pure white underparts. The species has a bicoloured tail consisting of grey above and white below. Adults have a head-body length of 80 - 115 mm and their weight ranges from 30 to 61 g, with an average of 45 g.
Shark Bay mice are omnivorous, with a varied diet consisting of flowers (likely from the Coastal daisy bush, Olearia axillaris), leaves and stemsfrom fleshy plant species, as well as fungi, insects and spiders. On Bernier Island, this species seems to have a preference for coastal fringes that are dominated by Spinifex longifolius. Here, large heaps of seaweed collect on the shores and allow Shark Bay mice to form their runways and tunnels. However, animals are not exclusively found in this habitat and also occupy areas on dunes that are dominated by grasses (Triodia) and/or shrubs (Acacia). On Faure Island, Shark Bay mice have even been captured on salt pans (‘birridas’) that contain various species of chenopods. Breeding occurs during winter and spring and gestation is approximately 28 days. Litter size is three or four and the young are independent at 30 days.
The major threats to the Shark Bay Mouse are unknown. It is believed that several factors are responsible for the disappearance of this species from the mainland. These include: predation by feral cats and foxes; habitat changes (specifically soil compaction and vegetation trampling and grazing) by introduced hooved herbivores; and competition with introduced pests (e.g. rabbits).
What is AWC doing?
AWC protects an established population of Shark Bay mice on Faure Island. Breeding within this population has been recorded, with several pregnant females being observed. We deliver effective conservation for this species through the eradication of feral herbivores and predators. The Shark Bay mouse is also one of the candidate species for the Mt Gibson Mammal Restoration Project.
Baynes, A. (1990) ‘The mammals of Shark Bay, Western Australia’ In Research in Shark Bay; Report of the France-Australe Bicentenary Committee,Eds.: Berry, P.F., Bradshaw, S.D. and Wilson, B.R.), pp. 313-325, Western Australian Museum, Perth.
Menkhorst, P. and Knight, F. (2004) A Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia, 2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, Melbourne.
Van Dyke, S. and Strahan, R. (eds.) (2008) The Mammals of Australia, 3rd edition, New Holland / Queensland Museum, Brisbane.