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Environment

Poster Critter for Climate Change

Climate change claims its first species.

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Melomys rubicola, the first mammal done in by human-induced climate change. | Ian Bell/Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection

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An obscure rat-sized rodent made headlines in June as the first mammal killed off by human-induced climate change. In the 1970s, several hundred Bramble Cay melomys (Melomys rubicola) scurried about their only known habitat, an island smaller than a shopping mall in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The animals were last spotted in 2009; subsequent searches, including an extended survey in 2014, found no trace of them. Researchers declared the species extinct due to global warming: Over the past decade, rising seas have destroyed 97 percent of the island’s herbaceous vegetation, which once provided the rodents food and shelter

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