The image above is of the Bramble Cay melomys, or Bramble Cay mosaic-tailed rat. These rodents were once found on a tiny, remote reef island found at the northern tip of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which they shared with shore birds and green turtles looking to lay their eggs. Very little is known about this isolated species, and now it is too late.
Researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia released their findings from a survey they did of the island, which details the fate of the species. They’ve found that the Bramble Cay melomys has been completely wiped out. This marks the first recorded mammalian extinction caused by climate change. So how did this happen?
At only 340 m long by 150 m wide, the Bramble Cay melomys’ island territory was incredibly small and isolated. Reports indicate that over 97% of it was claimed by rising sea levels. Essentially the rats were drowned out of their home.
Nearly 40 years ago, it was estimated that the Bramble Cay population was in the hundreds. By 1998, the number had dropped to an estimated 93 rats, and another population survey from 2002 and 2004 saw that amount drop yet again to only 10 or 12 individuals. By 2011, the rodents could not be found anywhere on the tiny island.
The Bramble Cay melomys’ fate serves as a grim reminder of the devastating effect that climate change has on our planet.