Australian researchers have announced the first mammalian species to have been driven extinct by man-made climate change, with the loss of a rodent known as the Bramble Cay melomys, also known as the mosaic-tailed rat. First documented in 1845, this species was found only on the Great Barrier Reef’s Bramble Cay, a tiny coral cay with an average area of only 8.9-acres (3.62-hectares). The creatures have not been seen since 2009, and a recent attempt to search for individuals came up empty-handed.
The extensive search was carried out by researchers from Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and the University of Queensland. The survey involved measurements of the island and its vegetation, and the setting of 150 traps to try to capture any surviving specimens of the rodents. Unfortunately, the traps remained empty, and no trace of the melomys was found.
Bramble Cay is estimated to have lost nearly half of its above high tide land area due to sea level rise since 1998, resulting in a 97 percent loss of the melomys’ habitat in just ten years. The island is estimated to have been completely inundated several times in recent years, possibly drowning the rodents.
“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,” explains the team’s report.