A tiny California mouse now has a big title after netting a Guinness world record for longevity.
The Pacific pocket mouse, called Pat after Star Trek star Patrick Stewart, is the oldest living mouse in human care at the ripe age of nine years and 209 days, the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance announced after a certification ceremony.
Pat was born at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park on July 14 2013 under a conservation breeding programme, the alliance said.
The Pacific pocket mouse, which weighs less than 10 grammes, is the smallest mouse species in North America and gets its name from cheek pouches the animals use to carry food and nesting materials.
The mouse once had a range stretching from Los Angeles to the Tijuana River Valley but the population plunged after 1932 because of human encroachment and habitat destruction, the alliance said.
The mouse was thought to be extinct for 20 years until tiny, isolated populations were rediscovered in 1994 in Dana Point in Orange County but the species remains endangered.
In 2012, the alliance began a breeding programme to help save the mouse from extinction.
Last year, it recorded 117 pups born in a record 31 litters.
Many of the mice will be reintroduced to the wild this spring.
A new population of Pacific pocket mice was established in Orange County’s Laguna Coast Wilderness Park and the mice began breeding without human assistance in 2017.
Though it does not receive the publicity of larger and more charismatic species, the Pacific pocket mouse is critical to its ecosystem because the mice disperse the seeds of native plants and their digging encourages plant growth, the alliance said.
“This recognition is so special for our team and is significant for the species,” said Debra Shier, who established and oversees the conservation programme.
“It’s indicative of the dedication and incredible care we as an organisation provide for each species, from the largest to the very smallest.”