First mammal declared extinct due to climate change

A small rodent in Australia is the world's first mammal to go extinct due to man-made climate change, according to a report published Tuesday.

The Bramble Cay melomys, which lived only on a small, 10-acre, sand-covered island in the Great Barrier Reef between Australia and Papua New Guinea, probably went extinct due to rising sea levels, scientists said.

Loading ...

Ocean waters inundated the low-lying island several times over the past decade, likely leading to the animal's disappearance, study author Luke Leung of the University of Queensland said.

The ocean water caused dramatic habitat loss and perhaps drowned many of the animals. The island sits, at most, about 10 feet above sea level, the study said.

The scientists conducted a thorough survey of the island in August and September 2014 and failed to find a single living example of the rodent. The last known sighting occurred in 2009, when the animal a fisherman spotted the animal.

The University of Queensland and the Queensland state government prepared the study. Researchers say there's still a chance the species, or a close relative, may exist somewhere in Papua New Guinea, although it's never been spotted there. 

Heat-trapping greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels cause temperatures to rise and glaciers and ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica to melt, leading to rising sea levels. Another cause of sea-level rise is because oceans are warmer — water expands when its warmer, taking up more space, according to NOAA.

If man-made climate change proceeds as expected, one in six species worldwide could face extinction, the journal Science said in a 2015 study. Other recent Science studies found species of plants and animals are becoming extinct at least 1,000 times faster than they did before humans appeared.