Endangered Hopping Rodent Captured on Camera for First Time

The northern hopping mouse lives in a small area of northern Australia. Rebecca Diete

Behold the northern hopping mouse. This cheeky little bugger stands on its hind legs and hops about like a kangaroo but is much smaller; its body is only four inches long, and its disproportionately long tail measures another six inches.

The endangered rodent lives only in a small area of northern Australia, and scientists don't know much about it because it's very difficult to trap, besides being nocturnal and dwelling mostly underground. Female mice dig large tunneled burrows that stretch to more than 30 feet in length.

For the first time, a female hopping mouse has now been captured on film as she began to dig one of these subterranean homes. Rebecca Diete, a postdoctoral student at the University of Queensland, got the footage after trying in vain for a year to find one of these hopping mice.

She says she became obsessed with finding the rodent. "I would dream that I would see one running through the bush and be running after it, and then I'd wake up and I still hadn't seen one," she says.

The video shows that after the mouse digs the first hole, she discreetly excavates a "pop hole," or secret exit, and then comes back to spread out the soil pile she's left behind so predators can't find the entrance, according to an interview Diete did with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Diete's work has shown that the hopping mouse (Notomys aquilo) inhabits a much smaller range of habitats than previously thought, and that many excavation piles previously thought to be formed by it may actually be created by other, more common rodent species. This suggests there may be even fewer hopping mice than thought.

One of the spots where hopping mice are found is on a large island in Australia's Gulf of Carpentaria called Groote Eylandt, which is owned by and home to the indigenous Anindilyakwa people.