Human-Caused Climate Change Blamed For Its First Animal Exinction
Science| | By Brian Delpozo
For the first time a mammal species has been declared extinct solely thanks to human-caused climate change.
The Bramble Cay Melomays, a small rodent creature only known to be native to an island in the Torres Strait area of the Great Barrier Reef, has been wiped-out. The species, also known as the mosaic-tailed rat, was the only known mammal species endemic to the Great Barrier Reef.
The rodent lived on Bramble Cay, a small coral cay roughly 340m long and 1500m wide off the north coast of Queensland, Australia.
The creature was first identified by European sailors in the mid-1800s. By the 1970s, it was estimated that several hundred still lived on the island. The species was on an extinction list by the dawn of the new millennium, and was last seen in 2009. After several years of searching, the creature’s status was changed from endangered to extinct in a study commissioned in 2014 by the Queensland Department of Environment and the University of Queensland.
The authors of the study claimed the root cause of the extinction was the degradation of the animal’s environment due to rising sea levels.
According to the authors, “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.”
The study, published on the Queensland government’s website, goes on to unequivocally state, “Significantly, this probably represents the first recorded mammalian extinction due to anthropogenic climate change.”
According to the authors of the study, the only hope for the animal may lie in an undiscovered population living in Papua New Guinea, where the melomys are thought to have come from.