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Australian mammal becomes first to go extinct due to climate change

Posted at 6:02 AM, Feb 23, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-23 06:02:01-05

(CNN) — A small brown rat which lived on a tiny island off northern Australia is the world’s first mammal known to have become extinct due to “human-induced climate change,” the government says.

The Bramble Cay melomys inhabited a small coral island on the Great Barrier Reef, measuring about five hectares (12 acres) and located in the Torres Strait, between Queensland state and Papua New Guinea.

The mammal had not been seen for almost 10 years and was initially pronounced extinct after “exhaustive” conservation efforts failed, according to a report published by the University of Queensland in 2016.

That finding was confirmed by the Australian government on Monday.

The cause of its extinction was “almost certainly ocean inundation” from rising sea levels over the past decade, which had led to “dramatic habitat loss,” according to the 2016 report.

If temperatures continue to rise, nearly 8% of all species worldwide could become extinct, a 2015 study by the University of Connecticut found. Australia, New Zealand and South America are considered to be at highest risk.