Endangered mouse receives Guinness World Record for Oldest Living Mouse in Human Care

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9-year-old Pacific pocket mouse raised by San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance recently received a Guinness World Record title for Oldest Living Mouse in Human Care in honor of 9-year-, 209-day-old “Pat,” a Pacific pocket mouse affectionately named after actor Sir Patrick Stewart. Pat was born July 14, 2013, at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, in the first year of the organization’s Pacific pocket mouse conservation breeding and reintroduction program.

Pat, the 9-year-old Pacific pocket mouse (Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance).

Pat, the 9-year-old Pacific pocket mouse (Photo courtesy of San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance).

According to an organizational release,1 team members and local and regional partners attended the in which Debra Shier, PhD, Brown Endowed Associate Director of Recovery Ecology at San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, who created and continues to oversee the Pacific pocket mouse conservation breeding program, accepted a plaque celebrating Pat’s milestone age.

“This recognition is so special for our team, and is significant for the species,” expressed Shier, in the release. “It’s indicative of the dedication and incredible care we as an organization provide for each species, from the largest to the very smallest. This acknowledgement is also a symbol of appreciation for species that people don’t know much about because they’re not charismatic megafauna, but are just as critical for ecosystem function. These overlooked species can often be found in our own backyards—like the Pacific pocket mouse.”1

This world record follows a historic Pacific pocket mouse breeding season. In 2022, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance recorded the earliest breeding event and pup birth in the history of the program, and the team helped with producing a record 31 litters, for a total of 117 pups during the spring and summer months.1 Many of the mice will be reintroduced into native habitats in the spring.

Fun facts about Pacific pocket mouse

Some fun facts about this species include1:

  • They weight about the same as 3 pennies
  • It’s the smallest mouse species in North America
  • Their name comes from pouches in their cheeks used to carry food and nesting materials.
  • They play a key role in ecosystems by dispersing the seeds of native plants and promoting plant growth through their digging activities

The Pacific pocket mouse is native to coastal scrublands, dunes and riverbanks and it’s range once ranged from Los Angeles to the Tijuana River Valley. Human encroachment and habitat degradation caused their numbers to decrease sharply after 1932. For 20 years, they were thought to be extinct until a small remaining population was rediscovered in 1994 at Orange County’s Dana Point headlands. At this point, the species had been reduced to just a few small populations, isolated from one another by long distances and urban barriers.1

The San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance conservation breeding program in 2012 was launched in response to this and to help save the species from extinction. It studies behavior, ecology, genetics, microbiome, and physiology to promote genetically diverse, healthy and behaviorally competent mice that are well prepared for reintroduction into native habitats. With the support from Orange County Parks, in 2016, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife began to establish a new population of Pacific pocket mice in Orange County’s Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, and they began to breed without human assistance in 2017.

What’s more, the breeding program at San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance helps bolster the understanding of better managing genetic diversity of populations in their native habitats.

Reference

Endangered mouse raised by San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance certified by Guinness World RecordsTM as Oldest Living Mouse in Human Care . News release. San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. February 8, 2023. Accessed February 10, 2023. https://sandiegozoowildlifealliance.org/pr/PPMWorldRecord

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