Article by Al Barrus // U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Deep in the wilds of the American Southwest, the secretive and endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse continues, against all odds, to eke out a living adjacent to the rare and dwindling rivers and streams of this high-altitude, arid region. One dark night, a tiny mouse smells something delicious; the odor emanates from inside an open metal box. Very cautiously and with much hesitation, the mouse proceeds inside to retrieve the meal. Suddenly, a metal plate beneath its feet falls, triggering a spring-loaded mechanism, and the sixth side of the box falls into place. The mouse is trapped inside with its costly prize.
Lucky for this tiny mammal, the following morning a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducting a survey opens the cage. They check the mouse’s overall health, take measurement, and collect a tissue sample: a miniscule biopsy punch from the mouse’s ear. They observe the tiny creature for some time to make sure it’s stable after the trapping and sampling, and then release it back to its wild meadow mouse life.
While taking blood and tissue samples for lab analysis is routine work during imperiled species surveys, this tissue could be a premium on a state-of-the-art species’ life insurance policy. It will be shipped off to a genetics lab and a -256-degree Fahrenheit freeze for its long-term preservation, or biobanking. How these tissues may eventually be used is unknown.
“With biobanking, we’re trying to use modern tools to preserve America’s genetic diversity — our natural heritage — for future generations,” said Seth Willey, a wildlife biologist and Deputy Regional Director of Ecological Services for the Service’s Southwest Region
About the Program
Revive & Restore, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has embarked on a bold endeavor to biobank U.S. endangered species. This is the first time the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has partnered on an agency-wide biobanking initiative. Learn more about our Informed Biobanking initiative here.