The Bramble Cay Melomys Is the First Mammal Made Extinct by Climate Change

Queensland government

Man-made climate change appears to have taken out the only mammal native to Australia's Great Barrier Reef region. 

The Bramble Cay melomys is a tiny rodent that once existed on the island of Bramble Cay in the Torres Strait between Papua New Guinea and Australia. Now scientists are calling it the first mammal driven extinct by man-made climate change. 

The Bramble Cay melomys is just the first name on a long list if climate change continues to accelerate, experts warn.

Bramble Cay melomys.  Queensland Government

Sailors first discovered the rodent on the island in 1845. There were once several hundred Bramble Cay melomys on the island, but no one has seen one since 2009. After a thorough search of the island in 2014 came up empty-handed, a scientific report concluded the species is extinct. 

Why climate change is the culprit

In the report, scientists write that sea-level rise likely flooded the island several times over the last few years, drowning the rodents and destroying their habitat. In fact, they estimate sea level rise destroyed 97% of the rodents' habitat between 2004 to 2014. 

And it's clear that the destruction is tied to human-caused climate change.

"For low-lying islands like Bramble Cay, the destructive effects of extreme water levels resulting from severe meteorological events are compounded by the impacts from anthropogenic climate change-driven sea-level rise," the authors wrote in their report.

This likely won't be the only species that we see claimed by climate change. Scientists have long warned that we're teetering on the edge of a sixth mass extinction. A 2015 report estimated that about one-sixth of the world's species could go extinct thanks to climate change.