On a Philippine volcano, an eruption-proof mouse rules the roost

On a Philippine volcano, an eruption-proof mouse rules the roost

MANILA — The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines in 1991 spewed enough volcanic ash into the atmosphere to cool the world. In the immediate vicinity of the volcano, a slurry of ash, mud and volcanic debris blanketed 18,000 hectares (44,500 acres) of forest land, triggering fears among biologists that it could have doomed species left undiscovered and unstudied by science. With limited surveys conducted on the active volcano before the eruption, researchers were particularly interested in how it impacted species, particularly Apomys sacobianus, a mouse species first observed by scientists in 1956 but not seen by them since. When biologists returned to Mount Pinatubo two decades after the eruption, in 2011 and 2012, what they found surprised them: the landscape had begun to regenerate, and the tiny mouse was the dominant rodent species on the slopes. The Apomys sacobianus in Mount Pinatubo, Philippines. Image courtesy of the Field Museum of Natural History Eric Rickart, curator of vertebrate zoology at the National History Museum of Utah and lead author of the new paper detailing the findings, tells Mongabay that the rodent’s presence contradicts conventional wisdom about the fragility of endemic species after a cataclysmic event. “For many years, we’ve been interested in how Philippine mammals respond to habitat disturbance — both natural and that caused by humans,” Rickart says. “Most conservation biologists think that endemic species, especially those found on tropical oceanic islands, are the most highly threatened species and are least tolerant of disturbance and competition from non-native invasive…This article was originally published on Mongabay

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