Western peb­ble-mouse

Australian Geographic - - Your Society -

Pseu­domys chap­mani Male: 52-67mm Fe­male: same

SOME OF THE strangest con­struc­tions made by an­i­mals in Aus­tralia are the mounds of stones, up to 9sq.m in area, built by the western peb­ble-mouse. These small ro­dents move thou­sands of peb­bles, each weigh­ing up to half their own weight, to cre­ate a land­scape dot­ted with minia­ture stone ‘vol­ca­noes’ in which the ‘craters’ serve as bur­row en­trances.

As many as 25 mice live un­der one mound. The pur­pose of the peb­bles isn’t yet known, but prob­a­bly has to do with main­tain­ing hu­mid­ity un­der­ground and stop­ping goan­nas from claw­ing their way in for mouse meals. The mounds last decades, if not cen­turies, pro­vid­ing homes for nu­mer­ous gen­er­a­tions.

The western peb­ble-mouse lacked a sci­en­tific name un­til 1980; since then, two more peb­ble-mouse species have been named.

Sci­en­tists be­gan naming Aus­tralia’s ro­dents dur­ing the 18th cen­tury, so it’s sur­pris­ing that these mice eluded recog­ni­tion for so long, given their durable en­gi­neer­ing works.

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