Who’s been eating my Easter Eggs?

by Nicole K
Publish date
13 April 2012
Comments (4)

Your Question: Who or what has been eating my Easter Eggs?

This week, the Discovery Centre was sent some pictures of Easter eggs. It's a sad story: they'd been gnawed, and not by their rightful owner (who was very interested to find out who the culprit was).

Gnawed Easter chocolates Gnawed Easter chocolates
Image: Anonymous
Source: Anonymous

Usually we need to see a specimen or a photograph of an animal in order to identify it, but the chocolate thief had left behind a clue – teeth marks.

Gnawed Easter chocolate Gnawed Easter chocolate
Image: Anonymous
Source: Anonymous

We sent the photographs to Museum Victoria's Senior Curator of Mammals. He examined the marks and reported that they had been made by the incisors of a small rodent, most likely a House Mouse, Mus musculus. His identification came with another sad story – his own chocolate Bilby had suffered the same fate!

A House Mouse, <i>Mus musculus</i> A House Mouse, Mus musculus
Image: Rodney Start
Source: Museum Victoria

Rodents have very distinctive teeth – a pair of incisors in the upper jaw and another pair in the lower jaw. The incisors grow continuously (like our fingernails), so rodents have to do a lot of gnawing to grind them down. In fact, the name "rodent" comes from the Latin words "gnaw" (rodere) and "tooth" (dentis). The gnawing process also acts to sharpen the incisors.

The skull of a House Mouse, <i>Mus musculus</i> The skull of a House Mouse, Mus musculus
Image: Marnie Rawlinson, Cathy Accurso and Ken Walker
Source: Museum Victoria

Wild House Mice are primarily granivorous (they eat grains and seeds), but they will eat almost anything. It seems that, like us, they love chocolate.

Happy Easter House Mice!

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Introduced Rodents

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Comments (4)

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Rod 15 April, 2012 13:43
Another lovely post!
Peter 16 April, 2012 16:49
Great post guys. I managed to keep an Easter Egg (actually a chocolate Henny Penny and her eggs) for seven years in the fridge with no discernibble teeth marks and only a little change in colour.
kymbo 19 April, 2012 16:00
Hah, I should have performed this experiment on the morning of a camp out in Hells Gate National Park, Kenya many years ago. I woke up to find a little hole in our tent, as well as the corner of our food bag, in addition to a sizable gape in the bread bag and consequentley a significant chunk of bread had been gnawed away also!!! The funny thing was that semi consciously we could hear the scratching and rustling as we slept, but we weren't aware of our little visitors, well we hope they were little!!! All fingers and toes intact, we often wondered what had found it's way in, but we can rest assure it wasn't one of the big '5'. Camping was permitted in the park due to their absence :)
Steve Simmons 6 May, 2017 01:22
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Updates on what's happening at Melbourne Museum, the Immigration Museum, Scienceworks, the Royal Exhibition Building, and beyond.