Bramble Cay Melomys: First Mammal Declared Extinct From Climate Change

A rodent that resembles a mouse from a Great Barrier Reef island is the first mammal to become extinct from man-made climate change, Australian researchers say.

The Bramble Cay melomys was believed to be exclusive to Bramble Cay, an inlet about 10 acres in size that is part of the Torres Strait between Australia and Papua New Guinea.


(photo courtesy of The University of Queensland, Australia)

Researchers from the University of Queensland and Queensland's government said in a report that sea-level rise caused by human-induced climate change destroyed the habitat on the island and possibly drowned the melomys.

The findings stem from a survey effort that involved 900 small animal trap-nights, 60 camera trap-nights and two hours of active daytime searches. It produced no records of the species, “confirming that the only known population of this rodent is now extinct,” one of the report's authors, Luke Leung of the University of Queensland, said Tuesday.

Leung said in the New York Times, “This is the first documented extinction of a mammal because of climate change.”

It hasn’t been an easy life for this rodent.

When European explorers first discovered this abundance of “large rats” around 1845 on the tiny coral island, they shot bows and arrows at them for target practice, according to the report.  

But there could be hope for these animals. Leung said there is new information to support beliefs that the original melomys population on Bramble Cay possibly came from the Fly River delta of Papua New Guinea. So the Bramble Cay melomys or some related species might “occur” there.  

It could be premature to declare the Bramble Cay melomys extinct on a global scale, Leung said.

I have the full story in Climate Change Claims First Mammal Extinction, Study Says.

By Ben Remaly, @BenRemaly