Science 3 min read

First Mammal Goes Extinct due to Climate Change

As the effects of climate change begin to ramp up, researchers have reported the first known extinction of a mammal due to global warming -- the Bramble Cay melomys.

Meet the Bramble Cay Melomys, the first known species to become extinct due to the effects of climate change . ¦ Image via Ian Bell, EHP

Meet the Bramble Cay Melomys, the first known species to become extinct due to the effects of climate change . ¦ Image via Ian Bell, EHP

Animals, plants, insects, and microorganisms all live within interconnected ecosystems that depend on each other.

A major component of this complex and fragile species equilibrium is the interdependence between different links in the food chain.

With each species going extinct, this synergistic system is disrupted a bit more.

Not only has climate change had a significant impact on the ecological interactions among species, it’s also directly responsible for the extinction of species.

Currently, in the Red List of Threatened Species, there are over 26,500 species heading toward extinction.

Experts estimate that climate change, which is accelerating the Sixth Mass Extinction, will claim about 8 percent of species extinctions.

Now, climate change has officially caused the first mammal species to vanish from the face of the Earth.

Melomys Rubicola: Which Species Next?

Bramble Cay is a 4-hectare island in the Torres Strait Islands of Queensland, near Papua New Guinea, off northern Australia.

Endemic to this tiny and remote island was a small, brown rodent known as Melomys Rubicola, or Bramble Cay melomys.

Scientists suspected for a while that the Bramble Cay melomys were gone forever.

Now, the Australian government has formally declared the Bramble Cay melomys as the first case of mammalian extinction due to human-made climate change.

According to a press release issued on February 18 by the Australian Minister for the Environment, the species status of melomys Rubicola officially moved from “endangered” to “extinct”.

The last reported sighting of Bramble Cay melomys goes back to 2009.

A fisherman told scientists in 2016 that five years earlier he found under a heap of sticks a few of these tiny mammals, which then ran away.

“The recent surveys of Bramble Cay were both ‘thorough’ and ‘exhaustive’ and sampled all ‘known habitat’ at appropriate times, and represented the full extent of the known historic range of the Bramble Cay melomys,” said authors of the 2016 report.

But, they found no evidence that suggest the species is still extant on Bramble Cay island.

Read More: Future Insect Decline Could Lead to Total Environmental Collapse

Habitat loss and lack of resources due mainly to climate change are to blame for the disappearance of Bramble Cay melomys.

“The key factor responsible for the extirpation of this population was almost certainly ocean inundation of the low-lying cay, very likely on multiple occasions, during the last decade, causing dramatic habitat loss and perhaps also direct mortality of individuals.”

Over the last two decades, the cay has been repeatedly inundated by the rising ocean that it lost 3.6 acres of land and about 97 percent of its vegetation.

The Australian Government did enact a recovery plan for the endangered Bramble Cay melomys population, then estimated at around 100 individuals, but the recovery came too late.

Now, with the extinction of the Bramble Cay melomys, it raises the question of how to prevent further events like this happening around the globe.

Read More: Milestone: Australia Chooses Climate Change Over Coal

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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