Oversized house mice shrink albatross populations

The Tristan albatross is facing possible extinction if house mice numbers are not reduced in Gough Island. ©Ben Dilley

On the British overseas territory of Gough Island in the South Atlantic, albatross numbers are plummeting, and researchers say the reason is introduced house mice. The researchers discovered that the island had 2 million fewer seabird eggs and chicks each year, suggesting possible extinctions in the near future. They say the number of surviving chicks and eggs would be much higher without mice around. Without action, species such as the Tristan albatross (Diomedea dabbenena) will likely become globally extinct, they said. In 2020, there are plans to eradicate the mice, which have inhabited the island since the 19th century when sailors introduced them. Now, the mice have evolved to be 50 percent larger than the average house mouse, the researchers said, and they have learned to feed on albatross eggs and chicks.

Read more about the study in the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.