Rebecca Diete and Luke Leung
The Bramble Cay melomys was the only mammal found exclusively at the Great Barrier Reef
The Bramble Cay melomys was the only mammal endemic to the Great Barrier Reef. An Australian rodent is the first mammal to be declared extinct as a result of climate change , according to a new report .
Researchers from the University of Queensland and Queensland Government tried and failed to find any trace of the rodent at its only known location during a comprehensive study in 2014.
The furry creature was known to only inhabit a small area measuring just 340m long and 150m wide in the Torres Strait, between Queensland in Australia and Papua New Guinea.
“A thorough survey effort involving 900 small animal trap-nights, 60 camera trap-nights and two hours of active daytime searches produced no records of the species, confirming that the only known population of this rodent is now extinct,” said Dr Luke Leung, from the University of Queensland.
“Anecdotal information obtained from a professional fisherman who visited Bramble Cay annually for the past 10 years suggested that the last known sighting of the Bramble Cay melomys was made in late 2009.”
The reason for unlucky rodent’s demise is likely to be down to rising sea levels washing over and destroying their low-lying habitat and possibly even taking some of the unfortunate critters with it, suggest the researchers.
“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,” explained Dr Leung.
While the researchers are confident that the findings mean that Australia has lost another species, they said it would be premature to declare the animal extinct on a global scale.