The First Mammal Has Gone Extinct Due To Climate Change

A few years ago - no one knows exactly when - on a tiny island that forms part of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, a rodent made his last stand.

You probably never knew the long-tailed, whiskered rat, known as a Bramble Cay meloymys. The mammal's only known habitat was a stub of coral off the coast of Queensland.

The State of Queensland, Environmental Protection Agency

You will probably never see him again. But his sad fate may be a lesson for us all.

In a new report, published by the University of Queensland, researchers say the rat is officially history - the first documented mammal extinction due to climate change.

The rat was essentially drowned as sea levels gradually overwhelmed his native habitat. The University of Queensland report points out that seawater claimed about 97 percent of the animal's already minuscule habitat in just about a decade.

"There is almost no doubt the Bramble Cay melomys is extinct, and there is no doubt that this is caused by habitat loss due to sea level rise," James Watson of the University of Queensland told New Scientist.

Wikipedia Commons

Of course, the phenomenon won't stop at the former doorstep of the Bramble Cay meloymys. In a study published in Science last year, researchers suggest one in six species on the planet faces an untimely end in the face of rising global temperatures.

As for this humble rat, the sad forerunner of things to come, scientists had held out hope that the plucky rodent would reappear on his native outcropping.

But the last melomys was spotted in 2009, The Guardian reports. By 2014, the rodent couldn't be found at all - despite a thorough search of the island. Scientists recommended their status be changed from "endangered" to "extinct."

It's a sad and lonely end for an animal most of us never knew.

But just maybe this humble rodent's last stand might help us all consider what we can do to reduce our burden on the planet.