Yes, today we have a species long thought to be extinct, that, like Lazarus, has returned from the dead. It’s the Crest-tailed Mulgara (Dasycercus cristicauda), a small carnivorous marsupial that was thought for more than a century to be extinct, and whose existence was based on bone fragments. As Roaring Earth and the University of New South Wales report, recently one female was found in the desert of central Australia. And where there’s one, there’s more:
From the UNSW report:
A crest-tailed mulgara — thought to be extinct for more than 100 years — was recently found burrowing through the sand dunes of New South Wales.
Known previously only through fossilized remnants, the animal is one of two species of mulgara found throughout Central Australia. These marsupials have crested bushy tails, measure up to a foot in length, and boast sandy-blonde fur.
. . . A team from the UNSW Sydney’s Wild Deserts project made the unexpected discovery during recent scientific monitoring.
UNSW scientist and Wild Deserts ecologist Dr Rebecca West says it is particularly exciting to find a Crest-tailed Mulgara alive for the first time in NSW.
“The Crest-tailed Mulgara was once widely distributed across sandy desert environments in inland Australia, but declined due to the effects of rabbits, cats and foxes,” West says.
“The species weighs around 150 grams and has pale blonde fur and a thick tail with a distinctive black crest.”
The discovery comes at a great time, according to UNSW scientist and Wild Deserts project co-ordinator Reece Pedler.
“Next year we are due to begin introduced predator and rabbit eradication from a large area, which will no doubt help the Mulgara,” Pedler says.
— Australian Geographic (@ausgeo) December 15, 2017
From Roaring Earth, which makes a mistake in the first line (they mean “near extinction”):
The mulgaras were originally driven to extinction due to the introduction of invasive species including cats, foxes, and rabbits, all of which have European origins. Their return to existence in this specific area could be indicative of a natural decline in rabbit and invasive predator populations.
The recently spotted mulgara was found by researchers from the Wild Deserts project on a scientific monitoring trip in Sturt National Park, located just north-west of Tibooburra. Researchers identified the animal as a young female before releasing it back into the wild, hopeful for its reproduction.
Wild Deserts aims to reintroduce locally extinct mammal species back into their native habitats, which also involves removing some invasive species like rabbits, feral cats, and foxes. The greater bilby, burrowing betong, Western quoll, and Western barred bandicoot are the project’s primary focus, but they will now keep their eyes peeled for mulgara tracks as well.
Here are some photos of the rediscovered one:
And a video:
Now what confuses me here is that there’s a Wikipedia page on the species, not mentioning its rediscovery, giving a range map, implying that there are a fair number of these things, and showing the picture below. They do say that there are two species in the genus, the other being the brush-tailed mulgara, but this one is clearly identified as the “crest-tailed mulgara”. Nor is the brush-tailed mulgara described as having nearly gone extinct.
Perhaps Wikipedia has gone badly wrong here, in which case we have another examples for Greg Mayer’s long-promised “What’s the matter with Wikipedia?” post.
Readers are welcome to clarify this conundrum.