This is likely the first mammal made extinct by human-induced climate change and rising seas.
The Australian government declared Bramble Cay melomys extinct in a February 18 statement. The brown rodent’s only known habitat was a small island in Northern Australia. It was the Great Barrier Reef’s only native mammal species. A 2016 study by the Queensland government came to a similar conclusion after conducting a wide-ranging search for the Bramble Cay melomys, and attributed the loss of the rodents to human-induced climate change.
“Significantly, this probably represents the first recorded mammalian extinction due to anthropogenic climate change,” the University of Queensland’s Dr. Luke Leung explained in a 2016 statement. “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.”
In response to the February 19 government statement, the Wilderness Society, an environment NGO, said the mammals should’ve been salvageable.
John Woinarski, a scientist who has done research on melomys, told the Sydney Morning Herald that the extinction should be investigated to prevent a similar fate for other species.