Wildlife & Biodiversity

Bramble Cay melomys is first mammal to go extinct due to climate change

Australian government makes it official that the 'little brown rat' has vanished

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 20 February 2019

It’s official. Climate change induced by human beings has claimed its first victim in ‘Class Mammalia’ of the ‘Animal Kingdom’: the Bramble Cay melomys — a ‘little brown rat’ found in Australia.

The Melomys rubicola, also referred to as the Bramble Cay Mosaic-tailed rat, was found in Bramble Cay, a small vegetable coral key at Australia’s extreme north.

The rodent, which built furrows in herd fields and among strandline plants, has been feared to be extinct for some time now.

The government of Australia’s Queensland province reported the species to be extinct in June 2016. Any member of the species had not been seen for about a decade. Some researchers though maintained that there was still an outside chance of its survival. It was placed in the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List of Threatened Species.

On February 19, 2019, however, the media reports quoted Australia’s environment minister Melissa Price saying that the species was now extinct.

“The Bramble Cay melomys was a little brown rat. But it was our little brown rat and it was our responsibility to make sure it persisted. And we failed," Tim Beshara, federal policy director for the Wilderness Society, told the country’s Senate, news agency Xinhua reported.

A five-year plan to save the species was introduced in 2008, he added. The plan, however, did not give due importance to the risk at hand, according to media reports.

Australia has been the theatre of several extinction, be it megafauna (including giant marsupials like Diprotodon) of prehistorical time or the more recent cases since the advent of European colonisers. Varieties of emu like the dwarf emu and black emu vanished in the 1820s, less than half a century after Arthur Phillip’s First Fleet landed in Sydney (1788).

Since then scores of species of birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals have gone extinct. They range from being as small as sterlings and parrots to as big as the Tasmanian tiger, with kangaroos, bandicoots, frogs and a whole lot of other animals in between.

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