The mouse of the “extinct” Pinatubo volcano rediscovered on the volcano that erupted 30 years ago

He thinks that the mouse of the rediscovered volcano will disappear. Loan (C) Danny Ballet, Field Museum

A little mouse rediscovered on a volcano that erupted 30 years ago gives hope for wildlife conservation in the Philippines.

In June 1991, Mount Pinatubo, the volcanic peak of the Philippine island of Luzon, literally erupted. It was the second most powerful volcanic eruption of the 20th century, ten times stronger than Mount St. Helens, and its aftermath was devastating. Lavan էին ash was dumped in the surrounding environment in the Am Ambalese Mountains, gathering in ravines up to 600 feet thick.

After the eruption, strong typhoons and monsoon rains caused landslides and ash flows that lasted for many months. Eight hundred people lost their lives,: the lush forests that covered the mountain before the eruption were destroyed or severely damaged.

In recent years, scientists have returned to the region to study the populations of surviving mammals. Նոր In a new article in the Philippine Journal of Science, the team announced the discovery of a species of mouse that had long been feared extinct.

“When Pinatubo exploded, probably the last thing on the latter’s mind was the thought that a small species of mouse lived only on that one mountain, հնարավոր it may have disappeared as a result. “What we learned later really drove us,” said Larry Hiney, curator of the Negaunee mammal at the Field Museum in Chicago, one of the newspaper’s authors.

Pinatubo landscape

The ecosystem that surrounds Mount Pinatubo has been recovering since the 1990 eruption. Loan C) Danny Ballet, Field Museum

In early 2011 և again in 2012, twenty years after the eruption, Field Museum researcher Danilo (Danny) Ballet went to the mountains. Pinatubo to study the fauna of its mammals. Over the course of several months, Ballet և and his team of field assistants (including local men from the Aeta tribe) surveyed the mountain mammals from the bottom to the top, where the forest was destroyed by the eruption.

“Most of our field work in Luzon and elsewhere in the Philippines has been in the natural forest environment where mammals are most prevalent,” said Eric Ricard, Editor-in-Chief of the Utah Museum of Natural History. how mammals leave the mountain. Pinatubo. “

There have been no studies on mammals on the mountain. Pinatubo before the eruption. However, specimens kept at the National Museum of Natural History in the United States provided some records from the lowlands of the mountains. “Most of these early records were about the usual species of bats collected in the 1950s,” says Hin, “but one specimen was particularly fascinating. A small rodent that became a specimen միայն just one example of a new species described in 1962, Apomys sacobianus, the mouse of Pinatubo volcano.

Danny Ballet

Danny Ballet, the lead researcher on the field, is now dead. Loan C) Field Museum

Conditions on the Mountain Pinatubo was very rough, և the survey conducted by the Balete team was both exhausting and dangerous. Even 20 years later, evidence of an eruption was everywhere. The landscape was very unstable due to the constantly decomposing ash-wire deposits, which made working on steep terrain dangerous. It also greatly slowed down the process of plant succession. Vegetation was a sparse mix of non-native plants, dense grasses (including bamboo), shrubs, low-growing vines, and a few trees, which characterizes the early growth environment of the second stage. It was far from the old growing tropical forest that covered the mountain before the eruption.

Field studies of non-flying mammals elsewhere in Luzon have found that old-growth forests contain a wide variety of native species and generally non-native “pest” species of rats. But in severely disturbed second-growth habitats, particularly near cropland, the opposite is true: non-native rats are more common, with only a few resistant native species. “We thought Pinatubo’s work would confirm this general pattern, so we expected that if there were native species, we would see few,” says Ricard.

The specific reason for Pinatubo’s quest was to discover the fate of Apomys sacobianus, the mouse of Pinatubo volcano. “After the Pinatubo eruption, we looked for this mouse on the other peaks of the Am Ambalese Mountains, but could not find it,” says Hin, suggesting a very limited geographical distribution for the species. We thought the volcano might be the only habitat for this mouse. ” And based on expectations from other islands, it seemed possible at the time that the species was extinct due to the eruption.

However, Pinatubo’s research yielded very surprising results. A total of 17 species were documented, including eight bats, seven rodents (five native և two non-native species) and even two large mammals (wild boar և deer). Contrary to expectations, non-native rats were not common at all; they were confined to areas where such agricultural pests are often more prevalent in the vicinity of Aeta crops. Despite the fact that all the studied areas were more in favor of rare, secondary growth vegetation than forest, native rodents were abundant.

Most surprisingly, most of the species, the vast majority, were the Apomys sacobianus volcanic mouse. Far from extinct species, this species thrived in this highly disturbed landscape, as did other native species that also have a high tolerance for the disorder. “We have known for some time that many small mammals in the Philippines can tolerate habitat disturbances for both natural and human reasons,” says Ricard. is considered very vulnerable. “

As Mt. Pinatubo is recovering from the damage caused by the eruption, forests will be restored and other mammal species will be relocated. Rincart says Pinatubo could be a great place to start a long-term resettlement project to oversee community reunification, Ricard said, adding that such information would be helpful in the efforts of many people to reforest. »

After completing a study of Mount Pinatubo mammals, Danny Ballet returned to the Field Museum, where he organized research samples, made some early notes for final publication, and then set them aside for later completion. After he died suddenly in 2017 at the age of 56, Ricard և Old is said to have taken over և completed his study as a tribute to Ballet, now recognized as one of the most influential figures in the science of biodiversity in the Philippines. for research contributions to young partners խ to promote the enjoyment of nature throughout the Philippines.

“Knowing that at one time he was considered vulnerable, he would even be afraid to disappear, is actually flourishing, it is the best tribute to Dan that we can imagine,” adds Hin.

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