Everything is doing great with the Mount Pinatubo volcano mouse. Scientists once thought the species had gone extinct after a volcanic eruption that occurred in 1991 destroyed its only habitat in the Philippines.
However, decades later, a team that went on to survey the mountain discovered that some species survived the eruption, with the little rodent Apomys sacobianus among them.
Natural History Museum of Utah’s lead author, Eric Rickart revealed that:
It’s doing great, contrary to everything we expected.Eric Rickart
Although Rickart is the study’s lead author, he didn’t conduct the dangerous surveys on Mount Pinatubo. Those expeditions, conducted in 2011 and 2012 with the Indigenous Aeta people were led by Danny Balete, the late friend of Rickart, who was also a researcher for the Field Museum of Chicago.
They discovered that several native species survived the volcano, which includes bats, rodents, pigs, and deer. Rickart revealed that the volcano mouse was “far the most abundant animal” found.
It was a surprise. But then when we thought about it — and particularly when we put together the things we knew in general about the kind of environment that has existed during the evolutionary history of all of the animals of the Philippines and the plants as well — it makes sense. Even though the 1991 eruption of Pinatubo was absolutely devastating and destroyed most of the forest on the mountain, it was actually very mild, or it was not as intense as previous eruptions that had occurred during the geological history of the mountain. And there were several of them.Rickart
In 2017, Balete died all of a sudden before he could publish his discovery on Mount Pinatubo.
After he died, it was just something we had to pick up and run with, mostly to honour Danny, but also to report what we think is a very encouraging sign that everything isn’t just doom and gloom. Even something as tragic and catastrophic as a volcanic eruption has a silver lining that it tells us that this animal, in particular the Pinatubo mouse, but also mammals of the Philippines in general, are incredibly resilient in the face of this kind of catastrophe, as are the Filipino people. What we hope is that the area will be protected, both to encourage the Aeta and also to encourage forest development over time.Rickart