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The first mammal has become extinct due to climate change

The Bramble Cay melomys was the only mammal endemic to the Great Barrier Reef. The rodent has gone extinct because of rising sea levels.

The first mammal wiped out by climate change is Melomys rubicola, a small rodent endemic to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

mammal
A specimen of grassland melomys. Image courtesy of Diete Rebecca and Luke Leung.

 

This was made known by the latest report of the University of Queensland, which revealed the results of an extensive search of the animal in 2014 that led scientists to consider the melomys of Bramble Cay extinct.

The rodent lived in a small cay just 340 metres long and 150 metres wide, in the Torres Strait, between Queensland (Australia) and Papua New Guinea. The animal was probably last seen in 2009 by a fisherman who has been visiting the island every year for ten years. “Because a limited survey in March 2014 failed to detect the species – said scientist at the University of Queensland Luke Leung – Bramble Cay was revisited from August to September 2014, with the explicit aims of establishing whether the Bramble Cay melomys still persisted on the island and to enact emergency measures to conserve any remaining individuals”.

The first mammal to go extinct because of rising sea levels

“A thorough survey effort involving 900 small animal trap-nights, 60 camera trap-nights and two hours of active daytime searches produced no records of the species, confirming that the only known population of this rodent is now extinct”, Luke Leung added.

According to research, the root causes of the disappearance of the melomys are exactly rising sea levels and the increase of climate extremes that would have increasingly enlarged the rodents’ dens over the years, killing numerous animals and destroying their habitat. “This is probably the first mammal to go extinct due to human-induced climate change”, Leung stated.

 

rising sea levels
Rising sea levels © Noaa

 

According to data collected by EPA (the American Environmental Protection Agency) and published last June, sea levels have been rising at a rate of 0.28 to 0.35 centimetres every year since 1993, roughly twice as fast as the long-term trend (from about 1880). Between the beginning of the Twentieth century and 2010 they’ve risen by 20 centimetres on average.

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