The very small and whiskered Australian rodent, also known as the Bramble Cay melomys, has been declared the first mammal species to go extinct due to human-induced climate change, researchers from the University of Queensland have stated.
In a new report published this year, the researchers state that there have been no traces of the rodent since 2009 regardless of a thorough survey back and expedition into Bramble Cay back in 2014, the area of which the rodent was known to reside, to search for the existence of the mammal. The authors of the report, Dr. Leung and Dr. Waller, have recommended that the status of the rodent be changed to ‘extinct’, with the rising sea levels from human-induced pollution and damage not only destroying the rodent’s unique habitat as the only mammal on the Great Barrier Reef.
Dr. Leung had stated that one of the key factors responsible for the destruction of the species, and unfortunately many more to come, is due to rising ocean levels. The low-lying islands are flooded on many occasions and cause dramatic habitat loss and the direct mortality of the region’s biodiversity. The island, which the melomys was known to inhabit, sits at only 3m above sea level.
Warming seawater temperatures are causing significant damage to not only the mortality rates of some of Australia’s most unique biodiversity, but is also causing coral bleaching to rise to an all time high. Anthony Barnosky, a professor at the University of Berkeley, calls the extinction of the melomys a “cogent example of how climate change provides a ‘coup de grâce’, (a final death blow) to already endangered species.”
While researchers noted the number of melomys was within the hundreds and thousands during the 1970s, their population began to drastically decrease with only 10 of the rodents being captured in 2002 for a survey. This decrease in their species is possibly due to the ever-shrinking environment they lived in, competing with other wildlife for food and trying to find shelter in disappearing rock caves.
While the news of the extinction of these rodents has shaken the world with the serious impact and need to step up dedication towards tackling climate change, Dr. Leung is hopeful that there are still some Bramble Cay melomys in hiding in Papua New Guinea. Researchers theorise that the melomys may have arrived from Bramble Cay on floating debris and hopes that people have now opened up their ears to the seriousness of climate change.