Above picture: A House Mouse feeds on the rump of a feathering Wandering Albatross chick on Marion Island, photograph by Stefan Schoombie
The Mouse-Free Marion website continues with an occasional series that features scientific papers that give information on attacks by House Mice on the birds of Marion Island, and of their wider roles on sub-Antarctic islands. Here, Ross Wanless and colleagues report in the journal Biology Letters in 2007 on the first video evidence of House Mice Mus musculus attacking albatrosses and petrels on Gough Island in the South Atlantic. In their paper they also report the first definite evidence of mice attacking Wandering Diomedea exulans and Sooty Phoebetria fusca Albatrosses on Marion Island, prior to the separate publication of such attacks three years later in the journal Antarctic Science.
The authors write in their discussion: “We suspect that where House Mice are part of a complex of invasive mammals, the effects of dominance, competition and predation by larger species render mice less of a threat to native vertebrates. Recent events on Marion Island support this hypothesis. House Mice became the sole introduced mammal following the eradication of cats, Felis catus, in the 1990s. Since 2004, several Wandering Albatross chicks have succumbed to wounds consistent with mouse attacks. This is the ﬁrst time in over 20 years of intensive study that wounds of this nature have been recorded.” [text precised].
Please note that not all the featured publications in this series have appeared in open-access journals. If the publication is not available to download a request can be made to the project at info@mousefreemarion for an electronic copy (PDF) of the manuscript.
The paper’s abstract follows:
“The house mouse, Mus musculus, is one of the most widespread and well-studied invasive mammals on islands. It was thought to pose little risk to seabirds, but video evidence from Gough Island, South Atlantic Ocean shows house mice killing chicks of two IUCN-listed seabird species. Mouse-induced mortality in 2004 was a significant cause of extremely poor breeding success for Tristan albatrosses, Diomedea dabbenena (0.27 fledglings/pair), and Atlantic petrels, Pterodroma incerta (0.33). Population models show that these levels of predation are sufficient to cause population decreases. Unlike many other islands, mice are the only introduced mammals on Gough Island. However, restoration programmes to eradicate rats and other introduced mammals from islands are increasing the number of islands where mice are the sole alien mammals. If these mouse populations are released from the ecological effects of predators and competitors, they too may become predatory on seabird chicks.”
Wanless, R.M., Angel, A., Cuthbert, R.J., Hilton, G.M. & Ryan, P.G. 2007. Can predation by invasive mice drive seabird extinctions? Biology Letters 3: 241-244.
John Cooper, Member, Scientific and Technical Advisory Group, Mouse-Free Marion Project, 11 November 2021