A rodent that lived on a small island near the Great Barrier Reef is the first documented mammal species to go extinct due to human-induced climate change, an Australian scientist said Wednesday.
Rising sea levels destroyed the vegetation the rodent used for food and shelter. The species, known as Bramble Cay melomys, was only to be found on Bramble Cay in the Torres Strait region in northeastern Australia.
"The main reason for the extinction of the rodent is due to high tides and intense storm surges that inundate the island," said Luke Leung, a scientist and co-author of the report on the extinction.
"The assertion that Australia has lost another mammal species can be made with considerable confidence," said the report to the state's government, which was released last week.
"We have evidence of seawater inundation in the cay that destroyed the vegetation of the island," Leung told dpa.
The long-tailed and whiskered creatures, which had been listed as endangered, were last sighted in 2009, he said.
"They have definitely been there for tens of thousands of years. The island itself is just 300 meters long and 100 meters wide. You can walk around it," said Leung, a senior lecturer at the University of Queensland.
"We have done several trips since 2009, and we set up camera traps. We found none. There were no tracks and no scats. We confirm the absence of any melomys in the island. So we have declared it extinct."
"This is a very unique case, and climate change is the most likely cause," he said.