This Is Likely the First Mammal Lost to Climate Change

Mosaic-tailed rat has vanished from Bramble Cay off Australia
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 14, 2016 8:03 AM CDT
This Is Likely the First Mammal Lost to Climate Change
A mosaic-tailed rat.   (Wikimedia)

Way to go, humanity. For the first time in history, human-induced climate change has been found "solely or primarily" responsible for the extinction of a mammal species, according to a new study. The Bramble Cay melomys, or mosaic-tailed rat, was found by Europeans on a tiny coral cay off the coast of Queensland, Australia, in 1845 and became known as the only mammal species endemic to the Great Barrier Reef, reports the Guardian. But though there were hundreds still in existence on Bramble Cay in 1978, the last were spotted by a fisherman in 2009, reports AFP. Researchers from the University of Queensland and the Queensland government—who traveled to Bramble Cay in 2014 and laid 150 traps for six nights to no avail—say "the only known population of this rodent is now extinct."

Researchers found the cay, which sits about 10 feet above sea level, had flooded several times, wiping out the animals and their habitat. Just 2.5 hectares of land remained above high tide, reports Newsweek. "Significantly, this probably represents the first recorded mammalian extinction due to anthropogenic climate change," the researchers say—though they hope the animals reached the island on debris from Papua New Guinea and still survive there. Researchers say extreme weather was a factor in the extinction of the Little Swan Island hutia, a rodent once found on an atoll off Honduras, but cats were also to blame. "If this is one of the first" extinctions solely linked to humans, "it is more than likely not going to be the last," says an ecologist. "Species restricted to small, low lying islands, or those with very tight environmental requirements are likely to be the first to go." (Five islands have already vanished.)

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