The Bramble Cay melomys has been declared extinct. This Australian rodent species found near the Great Barrier Reef has been officially labeled as the first victim of human-caused climate change. Bramble Bay is a tiny island, only 340 meters long and 150 meters wide.
Researchers used camera traps and searches to locate the presence of the animal in 2014 and could find no evidence of them. A report from the Queensland’s Department of Environment of Heritage Protection states that flooding on the island contributed to significant habitat loss, and possibly killed some of the animals directly.
“Available information about sea-level rise and the increased frequency and intensity of weather events producing extreme high water levels and damaging storm surges in the Torres Strait region over this period point to human-induced climate change being the root cause of the loss of the Bramble Cay melomys,” the researchers added. “S
ignificantly, this probably represents the first recorded mammalian extinction due to anthropogenic climate change.”
According to predictions, this is the first in what will be a wave of climate related extinctions in the future. Because of the rate of human caused climate change, natural evolution processes just can’t happen fast enough for species to adapt to habitat and climate changes. Life forms with extremely narrow temperature range tolerances are most at risk, including those found at mountain peaks and those in coral reefs.
Mammals are typically better able to adjust to habitat changes than other animals; however, it is still believed that 30% of mammals are at risk from the effects of climate change. Those with tiny habitats, like the melomys, will likely perish faster.
The last known sighting of the Bramble Cay melomys was made in 2009. Although this species has been declared extinct, a closely related species may still exist in nearby Papua New Gunea.
Photo Credit: University of Queensland