In today’s episode we’ll learn about a finer point of English pronunciation with words that end in consonant sounds followed by pronouns me, you, him, her, us, them. The transcript of the episode is written below. So click play and read along as I speak to you guys in this latest episode!
Ep039: Pronunciation Of Words Ending In Consonant Sounds Followed By Pronouns
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Hey guys! Welcome to this episode of Aussie English. Today’s another pronunciation episode, and I thought today that I would do an episode on words ending in consonants [consonant sounds], so words that don’t end in vowels [vowel sounds] like “O”, “E”, “U”, “I”, “A”. Words that end in consonants like “T”, like “D”, like “H”, whatever it is, when they’re followed by pronouns. So, things like “me”, “you”, “him”, “her”, “us”, “them”, etc. So, let’s get started.
One thing I’ll mention before we start, and the reason for making this episode is that “me”, “you”, “him”, “her”, “us”, “them” changes slightly depending on the accent of the person and depending how quickly they speak they’ll often shorten some of these pronouns. Not all of them, but some of them.
So let’s dive in.
The first one I’ll go through with “got”, G-O-T, “got”, followed by the different pronouns.
“Got me”, it’s just “got me”, it doesn’t change.
“Got you” becomes “gotchu” or “gotcha”. So “got you” becomes “gotchu” or “gotcha”.
“Got him” becomes “got’im”, “got’im”.
“Got her” becomes “got’er”, “got’er”.
“Got us” becomes “got’us”, “got’us”. So with us, it’s more that the “u” [sound] just slightly becomes an “eh” [sound] “got’us”. “ehs”, “ehs”, “got’us”.
And then “got them” becomes “got’em”, “got’em”. So you can say the “t” [sound]. You could say it more as a “d” [sound]. It just becomes a “god’em”, “god’em”.
Ok, now we’ll do it with “with”. So the T-H there and then the pronoun after the T-H, “with”.
“With me”, stays “with me”.
“With you”, “With ya”.
“With him”, “with’im”.
“With her”, “with’er”.
“With us”, “with’us”.
“With them”, “with’em”.
Another one could be “sold”. The word “sold”, “to sell”. So you’ve sold someone something.
“Sold me”, “sold me”.
“Sold you”, and this is interesting. “Sold” ends with a “d” and when that’s combined with “you” it can become a “juw” sound or a “jah” sound. So “sold you”, “sold’ju”, “sold’ja”. “Sold you”, “sold’ju”, “sold’ja”.
“Sold him”, “sold’im”.
“Sold her”, “sold’er”.
“Sold us”, “Sold’us”.
“Sold them”, “sold’em”.
Now we’ll do one that ends in a “z” sound. Even though this words ends in “e”, “to seize”, but that’s just spelling. The actual when of the word is a “ss” or a “zz” sound. “Seize”.
So “seize me”, “seize me”. Doesn’t really change.
“Seize you”, “seize ya”.
“Seize him”, “Seize’im”.
“Seize her”, “seize’er”.
“Seize us”, “seize’us”.
“Seize them”, “seize’em”.
And so I should add that “seize” in this case, I was saying the word “S-E-I-Z-E”, “seize”. “To seize” something. It means to like grab or to confiscate something. But it just occurred to me that “to see”, as in to use your eyes “to see” is pronounced much the same way. So if it was “he sees something”, “he sees me”, “he sees ya”, “he sees’im”, “he sees’er”, “he sees’us”, “he sees’em”. It’s going to be pronounced in much the same way.
“Ask me”, “ask me”.
“Ask you”, “ask ya”.
“Ask him”, “ask’im”.
“Ask her”, “ask’er”.
“Ask us”, “ask’us”.
“Ask them”, “ask’em”. So “can you ask’em?”
“Grab me”. So “grab” as in “grab onto”, “to hold”, “to seize”, “to grab”.
“Grab me”, “grab me”. Doesn’t change.
“Grab you”, “grab ya”.
“Grab him”, “grab’im”.
“Grab her”, “grab’er”.
“Grab us”, “grab’us”.
“Grab them”, “grab’em”.
And now we’ll do “stuff”. So “stuff” in Aussie English is often used as a way of saying “screw you” or “stuff you”, sort of like “get stuffed”. It’s hard to explain, but it’s sort of like. It’s sort of what you would say to someone if you wanted them to go away, you know “ah get stuffed”, “go away”, “I don’t believe you”, “bugger off”, “get stuffed”.
“Stuff me”, “stuff me”.
“Stuff you”, “stuff ya”.
“Stuff him”, “stuff’im”.
“Stuff her”, “stuff’er”.
“Stuff us”, “stuff’us”.
“Stuff them”, “stuff’em”.
Now let’s do one that ends in an “R”. “Bugger”.
“Bugger me”, “bugger me”.
“Bugger you”, “bugger ya”.
“Bugger him”, “bugger’im”.
“Bugger her”, “bugger’er”.
“Bugger us”, “bugger’us”.
“Bugger them”, “bugger’em”.
So that’s the episode for today guys. I just wanted to give you a little experience with how pronouns can sort of be abbreviated, shortened, after certain words, and to just give you some exercises that you can do. So you can listen over this. You can repeat after me and practice this pronunciation. It’ll be really good because you’re going to hear a lot of Australians speak like this. So if you want to improve your listening comprehension one of the best ways to do that is to practice using these words yourself because then they get ingrained into your head, and your… as soon as you hear them you’ll know exactly what the person’s saying. And secondly, it’s going to increase the fluidity of how you speak English.
So a lot of the… these sorts of abbreviations I imagine occur because it’s a lot easier to speak quickly when we make these abbreviations or these shortenings of words or changing in the sounds than if we were to try and annunciate everything perfectly as we speed up.
So those are two sort of reasons why I think this is important to practice, to get some exposure to. And, you know, don’t focus all your time on learning this but definitely play with it every now and then, have a listen, and soon enough you’ll naturally start using and understanding these kinds of pronunciation tips and tricks.
Anyway, I hope that’s helped guys. Jump over to the Facebook page and give me a thumbs up. Give me a like. Join in the conversation. Let me know what you think of these podcasts. What I can do to improve to help you guys improve your Aussie English. And also if you’ve got any questions or any queries, anything that you want me to clarify or potentially talk about on some of these podcasts, please feel free to message me or comment on any of the stuff on Facebook and let me know what you think. I’m always on there checking out things and I’d love to chat to you guys. So until next time we speak, have a good one!
If you liked this pronunciation episode guys then jump over here and check out all the other Aussie English pronunciation episodes to help you improve the fluidity of your spoken English!
Also be sure to come over to the Aussie English Facebook page and chat to the many other Aussie English learners. Practice a few of these words or phrases, ask any questions you may have, and be a part of the conversation! All the best guys!
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About the AuthorI learn languages, teach Australian English, and love all things science and nature!
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In this episode of Aussie English I teach you guys how to use the expressions “To have a crack at something”, “To give something a crack” and “To take a crack at something”.
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Expression: To have a crack at something
Hey guys. Welcome to this episode. I hope you guys have all been well. I just wanted to say hey to everyone, thanks for supporting me, thanks for listening to this podcast, I really appreciate everyone’s support and everyone’s interest. I’m really really glad to be able to produce a podcast that is able to help you guys improve you English, whether it’s just your listening comprehension, your understanding of expressions and phrases that we use as natives. And yeah, if you have any suggestions or you have any other sort of things you’re interested in hearing about, about Australia, about the world, about whatever it is that you would like different podcasts to be themed around then definitely jump on the Facebook page. Come over, chat to me, say hello to me, I’m always reading these comments and trying to engage with you guys as the Aussie English community. And, yeah, just come and practice your English. You’re always welcome to come and chat to me on there. Anyway, we can dive straight into this episode today.
Today I want to go over the expression “To have a crack.”, “To have a crack at something”. So, what does “To have a crack” or “To have a crack at something” mean? It means to have a try at something although you’re unsure if you’ll succeed. So, more generally it’s to have a go, to have a shot, to have a turn, to have a try. So, I might also add that you can use this phrase in different forms with different verbs such as “To give” and “To take”. So, you might also hear “To give something a crack” or “To take a crack at something” and not just “To have a crack at something”. So, this is just another way of saying to have a shot at something, to give something a shot or to take a shot at something.
So, what is the definition of the word “Crack”? Interestingly, in this phrase, I guess, it has nothing to do with the literal sense of the word “Crack”, but the literal sense of the word, of “A crack”, it’s multiple things. The first being a line on the surface of something along which it’s split without breaking apart. So, you can see a crack in the concrete on the ground as you’re walking along the pavement, or you could see a crack in the wall of the building, a crack in a tile in your bathroom. And then the second sort of common definition of the word “Crack” is in terms of it being a sound, like a sudden sharp explosive noise or sound. So, if someone let off, as is in the name, a firecracker and you hear a bang. It’s a sharp crack, you know, bang, crack.
So, the origin of this phrase I tried to look up but I couldn’t find anything really about where it had originated from. Someone online suggested it could originate from baseball, the game of baseball where the sound of hitting a ball with the baseball bat is a crack. And so, I think he suggested that by saying to someone “Do you want to have a crack?” it’s telling them, or suggesting to them, that they can have a hit or a try or do you want to have a hit or a try of [hitting] the ball. So, “Do you want to try and give it a crack?” Do you want to try and hit the ball with the bat?
Another way that I thought about it was say that someone’s bought a whip, because a whip crack or the crack of a whip is the sound that a whip makes when you crack it. So, it’s obviously a verb there as well. If you crack a whip it does that [whip sound] sound. So, obviously this phrase may have come about when people ask someone if they wanted to try using that whip. “Do you want to give it a crack” literally means do you want to use the whip and get it to make that crack sound. So, “Have a crack”, “Give it a crack”, “Take a crack”. It could be that, it could absolutely not be that. I’m not sure. But that was another way that I was thinking about it.
So some examples of how I would use the phrase “To have a crack at something”, and again you could say “To give something a crack” or “To take a crack at something”.
Number one, I got the idea for this expression from a video I saw recently, and I posted it on the Aussie English Facebook page where a man gets swooped multiple times by a magpie during nesting season. And the word “Swoop”, the verb “To swoop”, “To be swooped” is when a bird or some kind of flying animal dives at you and tries to attack you or scare you away. So, in this video that I’ll link in this episode the magpie swoops him something like 13 times while he’s riding his bike down the road, and he’s holding the camera so that you can see his face and his head as he’s getting swooped by the magpie. And towards the end of the bombardment of swoops he says something along the lines of “This guy’s really giving it a crack” or “This guy’s really having a crack”. And what does this mean? It effectively means that this guy, the magpie, is really having a shot at attacking him. So, “He’s really having a crack” at attacking him. He’s really having a go, he’s really trying to attack him, he’s trying to hurt him. “He’s really having a crack”.
Another example could be that you want to play a game on your Playstation 4, so your PS4, Playstation 4, your game console, and someone’s come over with a new game. You want to have a go on it but your mate is showing the game, and it’s a one-player game, so only one person can play at a time. So, you can’t play at the same time as your mate. He keeps dying in the game and taking the next turn. So, he dies, he has another turn. He dies, he has another turn. Usually, you would probably give the controller, you would give the turn to your friend, and you keep switching every time someone dies. So, if that’s not happening you could say to your friend as you’re getting impatient that he’s hogging the game that he’s just playing himself and not letting you play, you could say, “Hey dude, can I’ve a crack?”, “Can you give me a crack”, “Can I take a crack at the game now?”, “Can I’ve a crack”. So, can I have a turn, can I have a go, can I have a shot?
Example number 3, maybe a friend has bought a new car, and he’s driven over to your house, he wants to show you the car, he wants to take you for a drive. So, he comes to your house, knocks on the door, you come out, you see the car, you get in the car, and you guys go for a drive, but your friend’s driving obviously, as it’s his car. So, he keeps telling you about how good the car is, how well it handles, you know, the sensation of what it’s like to drive, how it responds, and keeps telling you you’ll get a go eventually but it just doesn’t really seem to be happening and the guy’s not, you know, pulling over and letting you in the driver’s seat. So, if this was happening you could say, “Ok ok ok, dude, dude, dude. I understand, I want to have a go, give us a crack. Give me a crack already. I want to have a crack. Can I take a crack at driving the car?”
Example number four, say your son is competing in a surfing competition this weekend, say at Bell’s Beach, which is one of the most famous surfing competition beaches in the world. And this is down near where I live in the south of Victoria. So, on the coast, Bell’s Beach. He’s up against the country’s best young surfers, your son, he paddles out, he catches a few really good waves but unfortunately the rest of the competition is just too good and they beat him on points. So you could say that “He gave it a really good crack”. So, he tried really hard, he gave it a really good shot, he had a good go, but he ended up losing. So, he didn’t win in the end but “He gave it a really good crack. He had a good crack at the competition but lost.”
So, that’s really all there is to it guys. That’s the phrase to have a crack at something, to give something a crack or to take a crack at something. And it just means to try something without necessarily being sure that you’ll succeed or wanting to have a go, have a shot, have a turn or have a try at something.
So, as usual, we can go through some listen and repeat exercises guys, and I’ll keep this one simple today where I’ll just repeat the phrases “Give it a crack”, “Have a crack”, and “Take a crack” four times [each]. So, listen and repeat after me guys.
Listen and repeat:
Give it a crack x 4
Have a crack x 4
Take a crack x 4
So, that’s it guys. I hope you enjoyed the episode. Remember, come over to the Facebook page. Engage with the community. IF you want to practice your English comment on things, ask questions, share things that you’re passionate about or interested in knowing more about, or things you see and do related to Australia or related to anything else. I’m always willing to chat to you guys if and when I have time. Don’t be a stranger. Come over and say hello, and I’ll chat to you next time guys. All the best.
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In today’s episode of Walking With Pete I talk to you guys about the importance of using up, finishing, completing, etc. your resources for whatever skill you’re trying to master before upgrading to the next set of resources. For instance, with regards to me and skateboarding at the moment I aim to ride my new board into the ground, that is ride it until it’s ruined, broken, unusable, before I upgrade to a new one. And I use wanting to get a new board as motivation to train hard so I can get there sooner!
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Walking With Pete: Ride It Into The Ground
Hey guys, welcome to this episode of Walking With Pete even though I’m sitting on my butt at the moment, sitting on my skateboard. I thought I’d video this one on my iPhone, see how the sound comes out. It’s not too windy today, so hopefully it’s ok, and I’m in a… I’m in a nice sort of corner near the museum where I work that’s away from the wind. So, it’s pretty nice to… to sit and record here. And I guess today I wanted to talk about using things until they are totally ruined. And I was going to call this episode Ride It Into The Ground because I’m trying to have this attitude at the moment with a lot of resources that I get when I’m trying to learn something. So, like at the moment with the skateboard I’m really really trying to use it until everything on it breaks, just until it’s literally ruined, it’s ridden into the ground and I can’t use it anymore. So, one, I get my money’s worth, and “to get your money’s worth” is a way of saying you pay for something and you get the whole value of that thing by using it literally until you can’t use it anymore. Whereas, if say, one small thing broke on the skateboard and I threw it away and bought another one, that’s not getting my money’s worth, from the one that I bought originally at least.
And so, I sort of view this the same way with language learning resources. It’s so easy especially in our consumer driven society these days, and I’m going to get a bit political I guess but it’s so easy to just buy something, by something else, use it a little bit, buy something else, buy something else, use it a little bit, buy something else, and this almost gets into a habit, you know. We update our phones all the time when our iPhone 4 is still perfectly fine we upgrade to an iPhone 5 or an iPhone 6. We always want the next thing, and I feel like it’s a shame because one, you don’t get your money’s worth out of the original item, and two, you don’t really value that original item as much as you would if you used it completely and wholly until it was absolutely ruined, right? So, if I buy a Ferrari tomorrow and get bored driving it around within a week and then buy another car, one, I’m not going to appreciate how much… how much that Ferrari was originally worth, you know, and appreciate it for what it is and for what I can get out of it. If I can just buy another one any day then what is it to me? You know, it’s just trash effectively. It doesn’t mean anything. And the same goes for the thing you upgrade to right? If you buy something else that’s better when you didn’t really need to upgrade to it yet and you could’ve in the future you’re not really going to appreciate it for what it’s worth and how much you’ve spent on it to be honest. And I feel like it’s… it’s the same with language learning resources. I noticed that I wanted to do that with French and Portuguese quite a lot. I’d buy one thing, I would use it for a little bit, I’d buy another thing, I’d use that for a little bit. I’d never finish the say, language book, the grammar book. I would do a little bit out of it and then move onto the next one and I think I never really got as much done as I do now where my aim is to really use the first thing that I get, say that… that first Portuguese grammar book, use it until I finished it or until it’s unusable, and then use having finished using that item as a reward for buying the next one. And I think by doing this you set yourself up with motivations to work harder. So, you’re more likely to… if you really really really want the next thing you’re really a lot more likely to finish the first, and um… thus get a lot more experience, get your money’s worth out of that first one and use the second one as a reward. Whereas, if you’re able to just upgrade to the next one at any point in time you never really, one, going to work as hard, at least initially using that first one that you got, and two, you’re not going to appreciate that second one that you get, and you’re not going to use it to its full potential either. And it’s the same with skateboards. If I say to myself with this skateboard that I’ve bought that’s you know, it’s probably medium range. It’s not the best, it’s not the worst. If I say, you know, after a week of skateboarding, I really enjoy myself and I decide ok I’m going to buy a $1000 skateboard, the best of the best of the best, and then use that from here on out, it’s kind of not… one, I’m not good enough to use it yet, it’s a waste on me to be honest, and two, I’m not getting my money’s worth out of the first one. I could’ve used the first one and just ruined it. Ridden it every single day and used that motivation of trying to use it until it’s completely ruined as a motivation to… well sorry, to buy the next one as motivation to finish using the first one and then overall I’m going to really improve my ability. So, you could apply this to anything I feel. If you get… if it’s working at work and you want a promotion, if it’s learning a language, if it’s skateboard, if it’s surfing, try and set up rewards where even if you can afford to upgrade and you can afford to get the next thing try and set it up so that it is a reward as opposed to your feeding your boredom and… or just jumping the gun. “Jumping the gun” is like if you’re having a race, a running race, and they have that starter’s gun that they set off, if you jump the gun it means that you start before the gun has gone off. So, if you jump the gun with regards to upgrading your skateboard or getting the next set of resources for your language learning, whatever it is, it means that you have gotten those things before you’re ready or before you deserve them or before it’s worth getting.
Anyway, that was effectively the message for today. It was, try and set up those kinds of rewards. Any time you want to upgrade or you’re thinking about upgrading, try and make sure that the thing you’re going to upgrade has really been used to completeness, that you’re not getting anything else out of it, that it is now ruined and a waste to keep using it. You need that next thing. And yeah… just use it, use it, use it, use it, use it until it’s ridden into the ground.
Anyway, that’s long enough for today guys. I’m going to go do a bit of skating at the museum out in the sun. Well, behind some clouds as you can probably see or not see it’s behind some clouds, and let’s see if I can ride this stupid skateboard into the ground. See you guys!
Check out all the other recent Walking With Pete episodes below.
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In this interview episode of Aussie English I interview my good friend Phoebe who is a fellow PhD student at the museum with me. We both share the same supervisor, and like me Phoebe is studying some incredibly cute threatened native rodent species.
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Interview: Phoebe tells us about cute native mice and sex-crazed marsupials
Pete: Alright. So attempt number two. We just tried to start this interview off but the battery died. So, once again I’m here with my friend Phoebe. Ah… she’s a fellow PhD student here at the museum. We have the same supervisor, both studying rats, and she recently got back from two weeks of fieldwork in the Grampians, in Australia, Victoria, in the western side of Victoria, and I thought I would do a mini interview with… with Phoebes together to tell you about her PhD project, um… a little bit about her fieldwork, and maybe a little bit about the Grampians as well. So, take it away Phoebes. Start again.
Phoebe: Thanks Pete. So, I’m in the second year of my PhD and I work on two species of native Australian mice, and Australia has tons of native rodent species, um… many of which have already gone extinct and many more of which are endangered and at risk of extinction. So, I work on two of those species, the Smoky mouse and the New Holland mouse. Um… and they’re both really struggling in Victoria. So, the Smoky mouse, one of its remaining strongholds is the Grampians in western Victoria, and as Pete said I spent the last two weeks there um… trying to find Smoky Mice. So, I basically um… set up camp and lived in a tent there for two weeks in the pouring rain and crazy winds and spent my days hiking around, um… setting traps and checking traps and look for mice. So, when I find mice in my traps they’re actually like they don’t… they’re not your normal mouse traps. I’m not actually going out and killing all the threatened species. Um… I like… they’re little box traps, and they’ve got fluff and food in there, and the mice go in and sort of snuggle up for the night and I come round in the morning and take them out and weigh them and see whether it’s male or female, um… and take a little DNA sample and let them go again. And so, I do that every second month in the Grampians to see how the populations there are going, um… and to see why the populations fluctuate in different ways. So, why they go up and down. Um… and whether that’s related to things like rainfall or extreme weather events. Um, which is, yeah, part of my PhD.
Pete: So what have you found out so far with the data that you have collected over the last few years?
Phoebe: Well so far um… I’ve sort of confirmed that the species is really um… has a really localised distribution in the Grampians. So, a couple of years back I surveyed this entire mountain range in the Grampians, Victoria Range, and I found
New Holland Mice[Smoky Mice*] within a tiny portion of that mountain range. So, they’re only in little populations in these really wet gulleys, um… along about 6-8km of the mountain range, which is quite a small area when you think about, like, the impact of fires and, like, the size of like potential fires when they sweep through and they impact the species and you might just lose the entire population of that species in that area if they’re… yeah, not able to cope with it.
Pete: And so, we actually had during your Masters degree when you were studying these guys a little more thoroughly, we had a massive bushfire go through the Grampians right?
Pete: And so, what did you find? So, you sampled them beforehand, didn’t you? And then the bushfire came through and you got to sample them again afterwards and you were afraid that they were going to have potentially have been wiped out, right?
Phoebe: Yeah, that was a real fear that we had because nobody had, like, seen um… Smoky mice go through that sort of fire before. So, we kind of assumed that they might actually get wiped out, um, and thankfully I went back after the fire and the fire had passed through all of the historical locations, um… within that mountain range.
Pete: And what had the fire done to the place?
Phoebe: It was just, it just… it was like a moon-scape, like it had obliterated all of the vegetation, like there was just nothing. There were burnt… burnt trees, like burnt tree trunks with no vegetation whatsoever and you just had rocky ground, and yeah, it was amazing, like… it was incredible that any species could actually persist in it because it just looked so inhospitable, like, there was nothing… nothing there. Um… so we went back into these sites and the only species that I did find in my traps was Smoky mice. So it actually survived in situ, so in place, like they’d stayed there through the fire, and they’ve continued to persist in the years following the fire in those sights. And there are other species coming back now too. So, you’ve got little antechinus, which are like tiny little marsupials, um… that run around and eat insects and…
Pete: So, they actually look like little rats but they’re actually more closely related to kangaroos, aren’t they, than they are rats?
Phoebe: Yeah, yeah, people always think that they’re like sort of a kind of mouse or something, but yeah they’re actually far more closely… like we’re more closely related to rats than these guys are, um… yeah, and they’re quite interesting, like, people always pick up on the fact that they um sort of shag themselves to death.
Pete: Do you want to explain a little bit about that? First of all, the word “shag” means to have sex everyone, just for those who didn’t know, or “to mate” in a more politically correct, scientific description.
Phoebe: So, um… male antechinus put all of their energy into reproducing. So, it comes to breeding season and they just pump all of their energy into producing testosterone and producing lots of sperm and running around trying to sleep with all of the female antechinus. Um… and…
Pete: Though they don’t really sleep do they?
Phoebe: They don’t seem to. Um… Yeah, so they just put everything into mating and then eventually their body condition deteriorates because they’re not putting any energy into like repairing their bodies anymore.
Pete: And they’re not eating, right?
Phoebe: They eat very little, um… and they… they do actually sleep very little, like you start catching them at the wrong time of day when they’d usually be asleep. So, they’re usually nocturnal and you’d only catch them, like, at night, um… but you start catching them in traps, um… actually during the daytime which is just, yeah, out of control.
Pete: So, there’s these little… these tiny tiny little marsupials, probably Australia’s smallest marsupials, right? Or at least some of the smallest marsupials…
Phoebe: Some of the Smallest yeah…
Pete: Actually stop eating, the males stop eating and they stop worrying about anything aside from going out, searching for females, and having as much sex as possible over a period of what, it’s about two weeks isn’t it, where they… they all die because they…
Phoebe: Yeah, it’s a few weeks yeah…
Pete: …they all go out, mate themselves to death, don’t eat, don’t do anything else, and then all of a sudden you’re left with absolutely no males, right? Half the population disappears overnight effectively.
Phoebe: Yeah, so you’ve just got a lot of pregnant females, um… and there’s no males in the population at all until the females give birth. And they give birth to these tiny tiny pink little beans um… that grow into antechinus and they’re, sort of, they’ve got a very small pouch like all marsupials have got a little pouch, but theirs is more like a little little dint on their belly. And it just has these giant um… little babies start growing out of it until they’re nearly as big as their mum, and…
Pete: And they all hold on don’t they, to the underside of this antechinus?
Phoebe: Yeah, they all um… they latch onto the nipples or the teats and just stay there until they’re ready to go off and do their own thing. (Check this video out to see what it looks like.)
Pete: And so, we’re at that period right at the moment aren’t we, where you are catching a lot of antechinus but they’re all female and they all have babies, don’t they, at the moment, in their pouches slowly developing?
Phoebe: Um… so there’s two different species that I catch, um… one of them is [the] Dusky antechinus, and they’re at that stage where there’s no more males in the population and you’ve got these sort of jelly belly sized jelly bean babies like attached to their bellies, um… whereas Agile antechinus are still at the stage where the males are still in the population and they’ve got these massive, like, testes or um… and they’re just… you catch them all the time, and they just have very little um… regard for their own safety. Like, I had a couple of interesting um… experiences this last trip where I was checking the traps in the morning and it was pouring down with rain, so I was wearing a water proof jacket and I let go of an antechinus and instead of running away, which is what they should do and [what] they usually do, it ran up my jacket and sat there on my sleeve um… licking water off my jacket, and it was just like… it was absolutely adorable…
Pete: That’s so funny.
Phoebe: But it was like not the best survival behaviour for a species, ‘cause I’m this big potential predator.
Pete: I guess it’s a disadvantage, right, at that point if you’re more worried about your survival than about being active and going out looking for females to reproduce with you’re not going to pass on your genes as as… um… easily as ones that don’t care and just get out there and look for anything they can shag. Ah, cool. But back to the species that you were chasing, so you were catching smoky mice?
Phoebe: Yeah, yeah so, I caught a fair few smoky mice, um… well a reasonable amount for the species. I caught dozens more antechinus than I caught smoky mice but smoky mice tend to um… sort of persist in smaller numbers um… at times. And yeah, they’ve been fairly consistent in their numbers this year so far, so hopefully they’re doing alright and hopefully they’ll start breeding soon this um… this year as well.
Pete: And so, for those of… those listeners out there who probably cringe at the idea of studying rats, and just rats in general, how would you explain native Australian rodents compared to say the basic image most people will have when they think of a rat, which is the introduced pest species that you see eating out of bins and dumpsters in the city? What are the Smoky mice and other Australian rats like in comparison?
Phoebe: They’re absolutely gorgeous, like, I’m slightly biased but Smoky mice in particular are, like, so soft and fluffy, and they’re this like beautiful blue-grey colour, and they’ve got like, you know, a little pink nose and little pink feet, and they’re just, like, adorable, like, they’re something that you’d look at and think of more as being a cute little, like, possum kind of thing rather than like a gross species of rat, um… and we’ve got so many species like that, like native rats and mice that are actually really really cute little fluffy things. I mean not that the, you know, be all and end all for a species, but yeah, they’re actually quite attractive little guys, and they don’t smell. Like they’ve got their own unique scents but they don’t smell disgusting like a house mouse or a black rat.
Pete: Yep. And so, you’re actually also studying another mouse species, another native rat species that’s a little smaller than the Smoky mouse. So, tell us a little bit about that.
Phoebe: Yeah, that’s the New Holland mouse are similarly endangered, um… throughout Victoria, um… and they’ve disappeared from different sites um… a lot over the past few years. So, they’re now known from only three of 10 locations across Victoria, um… and they’re… yeah, a bit smaller than Smoky mice but really quite adorable as well. Um… and I spend most of my time um… looking for them down at Wilson’s Promontory (Wilson’s Prom/The Prom), which is another beautiful national park here in Victoria. Um… and they live in totally different habitat, like, they have um… So, both species actually burrow and live underground in little burrow systems, um… but the New Holland mice tend to live in sandier soils, ‘cause they’re a bit smaller it probably makes it a bit easier for them to burrow through. Um… and yeah, they just run around eating grass and seeds and insects and fungi. Um… and also, just disappearing, which is what I’m trying to figure out, is why they’re disappearing but… yeah
Pete: And that was part of the reason you went to Wilson’s Prom, right? You had no records of them being there for a very long time, or at least they hadn’t been sampled by other scientists. And so, you went in to see if they were still there, and you were somewhat surprised when you found them, right?
Phoebe: Yeah, so New Holland mice used to be really abundant at Wilson’s Prom sort of in the mid 90’s, and then they sort of declined until the early 2000s, and then the last individual was seen there in 2010 um… where they literally just found one single individual. Um… and nobody saw any um… between then and when I started my work um… in 2015. Um… so, people had gone out looking for them, but they just… they couldn’t find them at any of these historic sites anymore. Um… so I went out and used camera traps, which are sort of like um… motion sensor activated cameras and heat-sensor activated cameras that take photos of the animals just doing their thing. Like, I’ll put out like a bait to lure them in and um… they go and investigate it and the camera takes lots of photos of them. Um… so I put those out across a huge chunk of the Prom, um… and found New Holland mice at 2 of my 50 sites. So, it was really exciting that I’d actually managed to find them. Um… [I’m] kind of disappointed that I found them at so few of the sites, but yeah, they’re still there just in really really low numbers.
Pete: So, what does that tell you about the species um… in general, I guess, and… how would you explain it, but… do they need large numbers and do they need to live… do they live, you know, across the entire landscape or are you more likely to find them in patches and in high numbers, low numbers? Can the species persist in low numbers dotted across the landscape? What do… are they like lights switching on and off too, the different populations? Or is this what you’re trying to find out to some degree?
Phoebe: Yeah, that’s one of the things I’m trying to find out, is how they are actually persisting. Um… at the moment it looks like there’s just this sort of one really small area where they’re persisting um… in quite decent numbers. Um… when I first trapped them there back in October the last year I only got three individuals which was devastating because that’s… like, I put in a lot of effort there and found three individuals and that is not enough to sustain a population. Um… but I kept trapping there and have been finding um… more um… sort of over Autumn this year. The numbers are starting to decline a bit again as we go through winter, but they’re still staying above like I’m down to about 12 individuals that I see per month um… at the Prom. Um… and yeah, it’s in this really localised area. So, one of the things at the Prom, um… is that there’s been all this um… native tea tree encroachment. So, tea tree is like a sort of shrubby tree species…
Pete: And it’s native to Australia, isn’t it, but not to that area?
Phoebe: Yeah, it’s native to Australia um… and it’s kind of native to that area but there’s been a lot of change in fire regimes and different grazing patterns. They used to have like sheep and cattle in the area. And it’s sort of just lead to this nightmare situation where the tea tree has just taken over the entire landscape, like they’re… it doesn’t allow any other plant species to persist. It’s just like this monoculture of tea tree, which means there’s just like the one species of tea tree um… across the whole landscape, and that just isn’t very good for supporting species like the New Holland mouse because they need, like, diversity in the plants um… that are present so that they have things to eat and so that the plants support different types of fungi and different types of insects for them to eat as well. Um… and yeah, that’s just sort of crept across most of the Prom, and the New Holland mice seem to be persisting in an area, um… in this one little patch where the tea tree hasn’t sunk its teeth in yet, so… yeah.
Pete: Ah cool, well hopefully they don’t suddenly disappear over night.
Phoebe: That would be my nightmare.
Pete: What are your expectations though? Do you think that they’ll… both with the Smoky mouse and the New Holland mouse, do you think that they’re both somewhat threatened but they’ve been in this state of being threatened by land regime changes and everything for a while now and they’re holding on, or are they on the decline, or on the increase?
Phoebe: I think Smoky mice are sort of holding on. Like, they’ve been put through a lot in terms of um… like introduced predators and landscape change. Um… but they seem to be hanging on in these little isolated populations, like, reasonably well. New Holland mice on the other hand are just dropping like flies. Like, I’m seriously concerned for the Wilson’s Prom populations um… because it seems to be so small and so isolated. The other two populations left in Victoria are doing much better um… but… I mean, the other seven that we’ve lost in the past couple of decades, like, it’s not look good, and we don’t entirely understand um… what’s happening with the species, which is yeah one of the reasons I’m studying it so that we can find out before it’s too late.
Pete: So, obviously it’s important too for the species themselves that you’re studying them, but I’m sure you get a lot of people saying, “Well what does it matter if we lose a mouse or a small rat like this?” and, “Why is this research that important? Why aren’t you more focused on things like the koala and kangaroo that are animals that matter?” You know, I’m sure you… I’m sure… What do you say to people who ask you those kinds of questions?
Phoebe: Yeah, I mean I understand that because people are much more attached to the animals that they see more readily, whereas these animals, like I see them all the time but most people would never get to see them because they don’t, like, run around in your field of vision, um… but yeah, the thing is all… all of these animals play different roles within ecosystems. So, whether it’s like distributing like different um… seeds or fungal spores to help other species to like, plant species or fungal species, to reproduce. Um… or like, these… some of these digging species like these mice they dig burrows and they like dig up um… like, fungi and stuff to eat, like, that really helps other species establish by a sort of um… disturbing the soil. So, it’s called like, bioturbation, where like um… species dig through the soil to get food and things, and that helps to aerate it and mix nutrients up and, like, makes a much healthier ecosystem where the plant species are able to um… like, get to the nutrients more easily, and like establish new sort of seedlings and that sort of thing. Like, ecosystems…
Pete: So, they’re all kind of relying on one another and if you take any one of those away it can become harder for any one of the individual species to survive.
Phoebe: Yeah, ecosystems are a big… Yeah, it’s like a big network where if you start knocking out species here and there the whole thing can collapse, and yeah… you end up with things like just, you know, solid tea tree for a couple of square kilometers, like…
Pete: So, by actually potentially putting in place things to protect not… not just this rat but this rat I guess to some degree, you’re actually going to end up protecting a lot of other things at the same time. So, it’s a bottom up kind of approach, is it?
Phoebe: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, so like… for instance if we did predator control, so for like cats and foxes, um… to support New Holland mice, that’s also going to support a lot of other native species um… that are preyed upon by cats and foxes. So, like native birds and other small mammal species. Um… and it’s also going to yeah support the different vegetation communities by having the mice in there doing their thing mixing things up a bit.
Pete: Yep, so what do you think’s going to happen in the near future? And what do you think we need to do in order to save these kinds of species? What needs to be put in place in order to prevent them from permanently disappearing?
Phoebe: Um… we definitely need to study them more and understand what is causing different declines in different places, um… and then we need to act on it, like, put in predator control measures, or like habitat modification um… that sort of thing, like, we need to actually understand what’s going on and then just basically throw money at it. Like, it’s the only way that you can actually um… yeah… ensure that we’re going to save these species, and the current um… yeah… sort of, the current idea is to just be like, “Oh yeah, they’re declining, let’s just wait and see what happens.” And then it’s too late. And I mean we’ve already lost like, what, 30 Australian mammal species, um… in the last 200 years, and that’s like worse than like any other country has ever experienced, like, we’re number one in the world for wiping out mammal species. Um… yay! Go us! Um… yeah, like, it’s something that we need to take seriously and act on now because it’s going to be too late soon.
Pete: Awesome, ah that’s probably long enough for today. Thank you so much for sharing your insights Phoebes.
Phoebe: No worries. Thanks for chatting to me!
Pete: You’re welcome.
Check out Phoebe’s blog about studying native Australian rodents here.
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