CONFIRMED: First mammal species extinction due to human-induced climate change

  • A rodent in Australia is officially the first mammal to be extinct due to human-induced climate change
  • The Bramble Cay melomys is Australia’s most isolated mammal living on the Great Barrier Reef
  • Rising sea levels led to the destruction of its habitat

A small species of rodent from one of the islands on top of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia is officially the first case of mammalian extinction due to human-induced climate change.

The Bramble Cay melomys or Bramble Cay mosaic-tailed rat with scientific name Melomys rubicola, was once considered as the most isolated mammal in Australia, being the only endemic mammal on the Great Barrier Reef.

It measured just 340m long and 150m wide and could only be found on the Bramble Cay of the coast of Queensland, Australia that sits on just 3 meters above sea level.

A group of scientists confirmed the animal’s extinction to the Guardian, after reporting that no individual from this particular species has ever been found since 2009.

A search was conducted in 2014 but it ended up in futility. The team, led by Ian Gynther from the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, in partnership with the University of Queensland, also studied the island’s vegetation.

The researchers attributed rising sea levels which destroyed the habitat of melomys as the main cause of the its extinction.

“For low-lying islands like Bramble Cay, the destructive effects of extreme water levels resulting from severe meteorological events are compounded by the impacts from anthropogenic climate change-driven sea-level rise. Significantly, this probably represents the first recorded mammalian extinction due to anthropogenic climate change,” wrote the Department in its report on the melomys.

With the results, the scientists recommended that the rodent’s conservation status be changed from “endangered” to “extinct.”

“Because the Bramble Cay melomys is now confirmed to have been lost from Bramble Cay, no recovery actions for this population can be implemented,” explained the Queensland government.