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First Mammal To Go Extinct Due to Man-Made Climate Change Revealed

Jun 15, 2016 09:56 AM EDT
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Researchers from Australia have identified the first documented mammal to be wiped out due to man-made climate change. The Bramble Cay melomy, a rodent that thrives on a tiny outcrop in the Great Barrier Reef, has gone extinct.

The Bramble Cay melomy is a long-tailed miniscule rodent with whiskers that's native to the Great Barrier Reef. The said rat-size mammal could be found in a tiny Queensland island in the northeast Torres Strait. According to The New York Times, reasons for the death of the Bramble Cay melomy is the rising sea levels. During the 1970s, melomys have been abundant in the island but their numbers decreased through time, with the last of them spotted in 2009.

The scientists determined that the melomys have gone extinct when they conducted a survey of the mammals. From August to September 2014, Australian scientists have set up traps, cameras and daytime searches to be able to spot even just one melomy. However, their attempt was unsuccessful, leading them to conclude that the melomys are non-existent anymore.

“The key factor responsible for the death of the Bramble Cay melomys is almost certainly high tides and surging seawater, which has traveled inland across the island. The seawater has destroyed the animal’s habitat and food source," said Luke Leung, a scientist from the University of Queensland and author of the study.

Leung added that the case of the melomys is the first documented extinction of a mammal because of an-made climate change. Business Insider notes that in 2014, seawater surrounding the island where the melomys lived have risen, resulting in lesser livable space for the rodents. To find refuge, scientists said that the mammals could have migrated to rock and crevices to survive while their food supply dwindled.

Anthony D. Barnosky, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, shows how humans contribute in wiping out species.

“On land, we’re seeing the same thing, except rather than water barriers, the barriers are the 51 percent of the Earth’s land surface that has been taken over by people," Barnosky explained.

Ecologist John White told The Guardian that species that are restricted to small islands like the melomys will be the first one to be wiped out due to climate change, adding that this is just the first but certainly not the last.

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