[Huffington Post] For thousands of years, the Bramble Cay melomys, a small, mouse-like rodent, eked out a living on a tiny coral island in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. It was the reef’s only endemic mammal species, and survived on the few plants that grew on its island home.
But as climate change expedited sea level rise and increased storm surges that flooded the low-lying island, the Bramble Cay melomys and its food supply was severely threatened. In June, after years of fruitless searching, scientists announced that they could no longer find any trace of the rodent.
The melomys was posthumously bestowed the ignominious title of the first mammal to go extinct because of human-induced global warming. “Sadly,” WWF-Australia spokesperson Darren Grover told The New York Times, “it won’t be the last.”
Scientists say the planet is currently on the precipice of the sixth mass extinction, an event that could see the wiping out of at least 75 percent of the Earth’s species. The current extinction rate is at least 100 times higher than normal, according to a 2015 study. Humans have triggered an extinction episode “unparalleled for 65 million years,” the researchers said.
Habitat destruction, poaching and pollution have killed off many species, and as we hurtle toward a 2-degrees Celsius temperature rise, climate change is rapidly becoming another major threat.
“The climate is changing faster than it ever has in the entire history of many species, and heading towards a ‘new normal’ that is outside the conditions that species have become adapted to in their long evolutionary history,” co-author Anthony Barnosky, executive director of Stanford University’s Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve, told The Huffington Post this week. “They can’t move to new places, because humans now use 50 percent of the Earth’s land, and they can’t evolve fast enough to keep up with the changes.”
In the past 10 years alone, we know at least a dozen animals, including several mammals, birds and amphibians, have been driven to extinction by humans. And that number is likely a staggering underestimate. Read More