Claim: Global Warming killed a Species of Rat

Bramble Cay Melomy

Bramble Cay Melomy. State of Queensland [CC BY 3.0 au], via Wikimedia Commons

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

Claims are flying that Global Warming has claimed its first mammal, a kind of rat which used to live on just one small island in the Cyclone prone Torres Strait, off the Northern coast of Australia.

Human-caused climate change appears to have driven the Great Barrier Reef’s only endemic mammal species into the history books, with the Bramble Cay melomys, a small rodent that lives on a tiny island in the eastern Torres Strait, being completely wiped-out from its only known location.

It is also the first recorded extinction of a mammal anywhere in the world thought to be primarily due to human-caused climate change.

An expert says this extinction is likely just the tip of the iceberg, with climate change exerting increasing pressures on species everywhere.

The rodent, also called the mosaic-tailed rat, was only known to live on Bramble Cay a small coral cay, just 340m long and 150m wide off the north coast of Queensland, Australia, which sits at most 3m above sea level.

It had the most isolated and restricted range of any Australian mammal, and was considered the only mammal species endemic to the Great Barrier Reef.

When its existence was first recorded by Europeans in 1845, it was seen in high density on the island, with sailors reporting they shot the “large rats” with bows and arrows. In 1978, it was estimated there were several hundred on the small island.

But the melomys were last seen in 2009, and after an extensive search for the animal in 2014, a report has recommended its status be changed from “endangered” to “extinct”.

Read more:

Calling the dead rats a victim of “climate” seems a bit of a stretch. A small population species which precariously clings to existence on a tiny spit of low lying land in the middle of Australia’s Cyclone Alley was never destined to survive for long.

From the Australian Government Website;

There are three threats to the species. Firstly, there is only the single known population of the species and searches on other cays and in adjacent areas of New Guinea have failed to discover other populations. Secondly, the cay is prone to inundation from storm surge and other disturbances. Further compounding risk to the species is that the species appears to be inbred. Therefore, resilience of the species to catastrophic events such as cyclones, introductions of weeds or introduced predators, or the arrival of a novel disease, is very low (Curtis et al. 2012 cited in DEHP 2013e).

The most recent survey for the species in 2012 resulted in no animals being recorded. The most recent verified record of the species is from trapping in 2004. It is possible that a catastrophic inundation of the island has already occurred (DEHP 2013e).

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135 thoughts on “Claim: Global Warming killed a Species of Rat

  1. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story. Or,
    Never let a good crisis go to waste.
    In either case, the alarmist damage is done. It’s an election year and the alarmists will do anything to secure promises of funding.

    • Good riddance I say. Those varmints were a hazard to the wild life species on that island, with no predators to control their numbers.

      • um, not all rats are ‘rats’ .. we have plenty of indigenous species on the mainland, my favourite being the river rat -the one that eats cane toads 🙂 As far as I can read, they were the wild life.

      • If indigenous Australian rats were reintroduced to the island, they would likely re-evolve into Melomys after enough generations (not that this is a good idea).

      • Well clearly these Melanomas are not native to that island, or we would find fossils of their ancestors that they evolved from. So they are or were an invasive species, so good to get rid of.
        And if they WERE the wildlife, then they must have been cannibals, if there was nothing else that they ate. Cannibalism is not known for its survival characteristics. Sooner or later you run out of friends to eat.

      • Thanks for that find, Nylo. People forget that small coral sand atolls change size constantly, regardless of what the sea level does.

    • “Human-caused?” No one can claim to possibly know that; not even the IPCC. Time everyone stopped paying lip service to this rubbish. Best way to kill stories like this in the MSM is they get no clicks at all.

  2. “An expert says” ….. expert = X is an unknown quantity and spurt is a drip under pressure!
    Is there anyway you can corner the guardian for spreading bullshitzer??

  3. It is also the first recorded extinction of a mammal anywhere in the world thought to be primarily due to human-caused climate change.

    How on earth did they arrive at that conclusion? This is not science … it’s wild-@$$ed speculation.

  4. Oh noes! Now we’ve done it. We extinctified a species of rat. From the completely mythological phenomenom, manmade warming, causing seas to inch up a bit, which of course they were already doing way before any supposed manmade effect. But hey, why bother with little details like that? We must not interrupt them while they are busy shaming and blaming, and wringing their hands, because of course, “this is just the tip of the iceberg”. Yes. Now comes a cascade of mass extinction “events”.
    If only the Alarmists would go extinct. Now that would be progress.

  5. Did the target practice in the 1800’s have anything to do with the ultimate extinction? Or was the isolation of the species the event that led to the inevitable conclusion? The article points to no mechanism whereby human caused global warming has impacted the demise of this creature. And it still remains possible that there will be other members of this species found at some other point in the future. After all, we don’t even really know if they were a distinct “species” at all since there was no opportunity to determine if they could mate with other rats, which I suspect that they most likely could, meaning that the designation as a “species” is only for the pride of some rodentologist. How do we test whether any of these “species” is in fact distinct and cannot mate with others? That’s the fraud of “Darwin’s Finches”–they were not distinct species at all, but members of the same species.

    • The CAGW inference goes like this.
      (1) the island was already prone to inundation
      (2) the seas are rising and we’re all gunna DROWN!
      (3) we don’t actually know for sure that these creatures are all gone, or if they are gone, what did them in, but it MUST be our fault and we’re all gunna DROWN
      (4) so the Bramble Cay melomys must have been wiped out by the accelerated sea level rise that is going to DROWN US ALL.
      So that’s the mechanism they have in mind.
      All it would take is one ship tying up — which they do — and a a couple of dogs let loose on the island for a couple of days, and no more Melomys.

  6. In the picture, the cute little mouse is sitting and eating some yummy Purslane, a not bad tasting edible weed and is suppose to be as good for you as eating spinach. Now that it is starting to grow out of control in by flower beds, I’ll be adding it to my salads. I do just grab some and eat it right off the ground.

    • It’s wonderful. Just a bit of bacon (or bacon grease) and a bit of onion. Quite nice, actually.

  7. From 2013:”Threats
    The small population size means genetic drift, disease and introduced species all pose a threat to the species.
    Habitat loss via erosion of the cay is the single most important threat, particularly given that sea levels are predicted to rise thanks to climate change. Bramble Cay is by no means stable. Between 1958 and 1987, the cay decreased in size; but in 2011 it had returned to a size comparable to 1958.
    While the size of the cay varies, the vegetation on it is shrinking, and this might be the main cause of the melomys’ decline.
    Bramble Cay also serves as a rookery to marine turtles and seabirds. The vegetation is disturbed by nesting seabirds throughout the year and by turtles between October and March. In our December 2011 survey the area disturbed by turtles was quite extensive, and many turtles were nesting towards the centre of the cay. Photos show a substantial reduction in the cover of vegetation between 2009 and 2011.”

      • A bit more information from a very quick search:
        leads to:
        wherin this: “In June 2016, researchers from Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, and the University of Queensland jointly reported that the species had indeed become extinct, adding: “Significantly, this probably represents the first recorded mammalian extinction due to anthropogenic climate change”.[2][1]”
        (Tried to get the link to work to the pdf of the survey report, but it wouldn’t download for me).

      • Reminds me of declining bee populations in Europe. It’s been illegal in Germany to kill the European Hornet since 1987, which kills bees. Lots of bees.

    • Turtles are carnivores, I believe. I suspect the turtles could have caught the occasional rat here and there, slowly depleting the slender numbers of the tiny species (if, indeed, it was a species). Further, seabirds (which eat about anything) could easily have snarfed down some teensy weensy baby rats (“Ooh!” gulp “That was good! Here’s another!” gulp etc.); nor does the article state which seabirds were there, though hardly any that I know of are herbivorous. It does not require mankind to deplete wildlife in an isolated area (which an island is, by definition). There is no known cure for stupidity.

      • Also, rats can swim and tread water for days. So it’s possible that some Melomy refugees have washed up on other nearby islands. If predatory fish didn’t get to them first–they’re not that picky about what they eat. If it fits in their mouths, it’s fair game.

    • Extinction is the norm survival is the exception , well according to earths history anyway .

    • It’s worth noting that after mass extinction events, there is a tremendous burst of life and species introduction.

    • Not only that , but “… used to live on just one small island …”. Prime candidates for extinction, then. Excuse my lack of concern.

      • Why isn’t the blatant government sponsored rat genocide in the news? It is. They brag about it. It’s no secret. It’s just that no eco-loon has had the guts to stand up for the poor oppressed Alberta rats … yet.

  8. How did the “rat” get there in the first place ?…A “rat” infested Liberal ship that sank in the 1800’s, of course !! These “rats” are well known for jumping ship when the liberal “cause” has come to an end, after leeching all the money they can from the poor, unsuspecting taxpayer ! IMHO….

  9. Rats were brought by ships in the past and did considerable damage to existing wildlife. The killing of a human caused invasive species (unnatural pest) is not a bad thing, but a good one.

      • They probably AREN’T introduced; there’s a whole bunch of Melomys species in Australia and similar animals in PNG. They’ve been there a while. Since there isn’t any other known population of these creatures, where could they have been introduced *from*?

      • Philip Schaeffer June 14, 2016 at 11:25 pm
        No, they are native, but hey, don’t find out before you post.
        (from the research)
        Barrier Reef rodent is first mammal declared extinct due to climate change
        The Bramble Cay melomys 14 June 2016

        “A thorough survey effort involving 900 small animal trap-nights, 60 camera trap-nights and two hours of active daytime searches produced no records of the species, confirming that the only known population of this rodent is now extinct.”
        “Anecdotal information obtained from a professional fisherman who visited Bramble Cay annually for the past 10 years suggested that the last known sighting of the Bramble Cay melomys was made in late 2009.”
        Dr Leung said the fact that exhaustive efforts had failed to record the rodent at its only known location and extensive surveys had not found it on any other Torres Strait or Great Barrier Reef island gave him confidence in the assertion that Australia had lost another mammal species.
        “Significantly, this probably represents the first recorded mammalian extinction due to anthropogenic climate change.
        “However, new information is provided in support of a previously presented hypothesis that the Fly River delta of Papua New Guinea is a possible source of the original melomys population on Bramble Cay, so the Bramble Cay melomys or a closely related species might occur there. “
        Dr Leung said it could be premature to declare the Bramble Cay melomys extinct on a global scale.
        The study was led by Ian Gynther from Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection and in partnership with UQ researchers Natalie Waller and Luke Leung.

      • I haven’t been able to find anything on how far the “island” is from the mainland.
        Perhaps it was easier to reach during the last ice age.
        Regardless, rodents are famous for hitching rides on pieces of drift wood and being carried to nearby islands.

      • Obviously the island was connected to the mainland ~10k years ago. The island is also in range of driftwood from the Fly River, PNG. So the colony has been isolated for ~10k years max and possibly a lot less. It might even have come and gone multiple times over the millenia (in on driftwood, breed up, wiped out by a storm surge, rinse and repeat). ]Walked in seems more likely than the driftwood route, if there’s no known colony elsewhere.]

      • And Richard says there are Melomys all over the place, so what is this rubbish about them being extinct ? Either there ARE melomys elsewhere that could have been introduced to this rock pile, and live there a while, or else there aren’t any anywhere else. Just round up some from elsewhere and take them to this piece of sand during the next low tide, when it is above water. Well they will drown too come high tide, but at least they will have lived on their new species digs for a few hours.

    • Leonard, Melomys are a separate family to rats. Around the Brisbane area there are two types of Melomys – Melomys cervinipas (fawn footed) and Melomys burtoni (grassland). There are five types of the family rattus- rattus fuscipes (bush rat), rattus lutreolus (swamp rat), rattus tunneyi (pale field rat), rattus rattus (ship rat which came from suth-east Asia on ships) and rattus norvegicus (sewer rat which came from Europe in ship cargo). The Melomys are quite cute. They are nocturnal and good climbers in rainforest trees and mangroves. The first three types of rats mentioned are indigenous Australian rats that do not come near housing. The sewer rat and ship rat are not nice. They are the ones that are the scavengers and get into housing and rubbish dumps etc. and can carry disease.

      • Nice reply cementafriend – I’d like to add to that from my experience trapping rats and small marsupials for surveys that our native bush rats are charming little things and I’ve often wondered why we persist with the raising of rattus and norvegicus in Oz for pets and research when we’ve these little guys to work with instead. R. fuscipes was always a hoot – after releasing one you’d just caught and inspected they’d d wait at your feet for you to bait and set the humane trap so they could skip back in for the free lunch again.(trap happy we called it) and so you’d have to shoo him off and set the trap elsewhere.

      • So Karl, if you and enough other curiosity seekers keep on trapping the little critters so you can study them, pretty soon you too will have all of them in your museum drawers, so future generations of museum goers can see what they were like before you all extincted them.
        You could try using a digital SLR camera to take pictures of them outside of your traps where they belong.

      • Well colour me confused.. I said I released them.. The trapping was for ag department and WA museum range distribution and population surveys, they were weighed, measure, given a dot of colour and released.. Not that they seemed keen or release, but whether or not they liked it they were sent packing. My comment was about the fact they were so friendly that resetting the trap in the same location only resulted in the same rats being caught over and over again. Was I that unclear?
        PS DSLR’s were about 20 years away from being invented at the time I was doing this, though I have some film images of various R. fucipes hugging my assistant (and some others of Antechinu sp. mauling thumbs and trying to drag their human prey off into the undergrowth).

  10. From Wiki:
    The 3.62-hectare (8.9-acre) sand cay is predominately grassland, with 1.72 hectares (4.3 acres) covered in grasses.
    From their article on the rat:
    Australia’s most isolated mammal, the Bramble Cay melomys was known only from a small population in Bramble Cay, a vegetated coral cay of 340 by 150 metres (1,120 ft × 490 ft).
    Bramble Cay is a football field sized chunk of land sticking out of the ocean. The rat’s probably drowned in a storm. End of story.

  11. Darn “climate change” killed the dinosaurs, the dodo bird and the passenger pigeon.
    What will the come up with next?

  12. OK, sceptics have had to vet the terrible state of our biased climate temp recordings, find hordes of missing penguins, polar bears, caribou, Edith Spotted butterflies (the debunked butterfly researcher got the climate blues and retired) and walruses… does anyone know any rat wranglers to sort this out. I wonder if the researchers simply knocked it off. They trapped the poor sucker in 2004, which is 11yrs ago. How long do they live any way? How is one rat of unknown age and no mate going to be able to continue its species? Died of Climate change, any person who isn’t brain dead would call this BeeEss

    • They have been harassing the little brighter for decades. They trapped 42 of them in 2004! Remember researchers wiped out the Golden Toad in Costa Rica by contaminating them with an epidemic of fungus from a Sth African Toad that was on their equipment after a world wide search for the ideal extract from frogs for detecting pregnancy in humans? They lied about this tragedy caused by incompetence. They are lying about this too

  13. Pervasive, unrelenting propaganda results in brain-numbing in some people so that they cannot tell the difference between facts and bullshit anymore. Either that, or they figure they’d better “go with the flow” and join the chorus to burn the witch lest they themselves be fired, targeted or harassed.

  14. Come on, the associated press put this report out there and that accurate source of climate doom Canada’s CBC, David Suzuki’s paycheck, so must be true.

  15. ..News Flash !! WUWT has caused the extinction of CAGW alarmists all over the world !! Liberal brain cells (highly uncommon) have been witnessed to explode upon contact with this radical website !! More to follow at 11:00 !!

  16. Those rats are FOREIGN INVADERS who were left there by ships coming from Europe. They are not native species.

    • Actually they are indigenous. Many other rodent species arrived with Europeans, but these rodents predate even the aboriginal human inhabitants of Oz by millions of years.

  17. I’d like to see the evolutionary tree of indigenous rats on the mainland before I go getting my knickers in a bunch.

  18. The greatest extinction event observed to date that may be unambiguously assigned to global warming (aka climate change) is extinction of the professional integrity of far too many scientists and journalists.

  19. According to
    – “this species is also a case study in how the role of natural and largely unpreventable processes, and the high cost of undertaking any recovery actions in such an isolated location, are important considerations when weighing up how and where conservation actions are directed”, note “natural” and “unpreventable”
    – it’s not certain that this was a distinct species from the Cape York melomys
    – a recovery plan for these animals was published in 2008, so what happened to that plan? Oh wait, “an integrated program of monitoring, on ground management, searches for other populations and raising public awareness.” The plan DIDN’T include captive breeding. 100 individuals left, and no captive breeding plan, an island frequently inundated, “two weed species already present”, … someone WANTED these animals gone.

    • An island, the smaller the better, is an ideal way first to develop a new species through isolation from the gene pool of related species and then to wipe it out given normal weather variation or introduction of a predator. When people “look for the bodies”, they don’t find many if they can’t count those from islands.

    • Pretty sure a captive breeding program would have been eminently successful, if in fact they breed like rats!

    • I’m all in favor of and gladly paid my share of the taxes that went into the ongoing recovery of the Whooping Crane, and the California Condor.
      But this rat lookalike on a sandspit, is lunacy. Only thing sillier I’ve ever heard of was a rare fly species that inhabited a region in Southern California, that was scheduled to become divided by a freeway they were building in the area. That would have made two species instead of one, so surely that was a good thing.
      But they didn’t want two species of rare flies, so they had to make a ten mile detour around the football field sized piece of land that was home to these flies.
      Oh these were very special flies; all eight of them ! Surely each one had a pet name.
      Now you give me a class of fifth graders and a gallon of ice cream and some fly swatters, and I will take care of those eight flies for good.
      But ten extra miles of freeway, at many megadollars per mile, was their choice over a gallon of ice cream.
      Nutz !

      • Snail darters were found in other streams after their protection cost untold billions. The Northern Spotted Owl is at best a subspecies of the Southern SO, but logging the the western PNW was shut down to protect it.

  20. There are several papers suggesting that between 2000 and 5000 years ago, the Pacific Ocean experienced a sea level high stand that was at least 1 meter higher than today. The one small atoll on which these rodents live would have been exterminated if sea level was the issue. Yet these alarmists are erroneously suggesting a 3 inch rise since 1900 extirpated this rodent.
    Read LESSA, G. and MASSELINK. G., 2006. Evidence of a mid-Holocene sea level highstand from the sedimentary record of a macrotidal barrier and paleoestuary system in northwestern Australia. Journal of Coastal Research 22(11 100- 112. West Palm Beach (Florida), ISSN 0749-0208.
    or Dickinson (2012) Paleoshoreline record of relative Holocene sea levels on Pacific islands

    • The rodent probably floated out to the cay after the high stand of the Holocene Climatic Optimum. Five thousand years is plenty of time for a rodent population to evolve the minor differences it displays from the Cape York melomys on the mainland.

  21. Assuming this is true and the brand of rats is gone….
    …how can we even know that it’s a distinct specie?
    …why would we care whether it’s a distinct specie?
    …why would we care when species with a tiny territory and no ecological significance disappear?

    • The Bramble Cay melomys was probably best classified as a subspecies of the Cape York melomys. It showed some protein differences and sported a coarser tail due to elevated scales.
      The “Old Endemic” rodents of Australia had evolved there since the Miocene or possibly Pliocene in some cases. The “New Endemics” arrived during the Pleistocene. The recently introduced rats, mice and squirrels are invasive and have caused problems. The Cape York and Bramble Cay melomyses are old endemic species.
      It’s unclear if sea level rise caused the apparent demise of the Bramble Cay variety. It’s perfectly clear that humans had little if anything to do with the purported sea level rise.
      Pure propaganda.

  22. “And worse for the melomys, they lost 97% of their habitat in just 10 years”
    Ah, the magic 97% again. Whenever you want someone to believe something, just claim 97%. It doesn’t matter if you are pushing AGW doom or trying to sell cat food or toothpaste, it’s the magic claimed statistic you can apply to anyone incapable of logical thought or ability or willingness to ask questions. It’s amazing how many times a week you notice the application of 97% when applied to selling you something these days.

  23. Could it be that in their isolation they mutated, gained intelligence, learned to read; and became “alarmed” over the Guardian stories of sea level rise and migrated?

  24. This just in (my mailbox this morning): Announcement for csicon Las Vegas 27-30 october, sponsored by the Center for Inquiry and the Skeptical inquirer: the magazine for science and reason. Surely these skeptics will have the expertise to debunk this theory. Or maybe not. Michael E. Mann is listed as a speaker from 2:30-3:00pm on the second day. He is the second speaker after lunch, so everyone should be asleep by then.

  25. I am not a biologist, but I know a little about the problems of classifying variants and sub-species within a group.
    If it is a sub species or variant of other Cape York Melomys (Melomys rubicola — Bramble Cay Melomys), then technically it may not be a ‘separate’ species at all, depending of course on classification.
    Biologists can sometimes get too enthusiastic when classifying a ‘species’, which are really much the same as other variants. They sometimes do this of course to claim more species, for various reasons. The Australian dingo for example, is sometimes claimed to be a separate ‘species’ of dog, despite it being just like a wild ordinary dog, morphologically it’s the same as any other dogs, it interbreeds with other dogs, and is really a sub-species at best, if at all.

    • Splitters tend to beat out lumpers because every time a biologist describes a formerly nondescript organism, he or she wants it to be a new species.

    • So the Eastern Elk went extinct. Well actually, the last one; him or her, just never ran into any ordinary western elk, her or him, in time.
      If Maura Massachusetts want some new elk, we can ship her a bunch of ours from California.
      Same damn thing as the one she ran out of town.

  26. If Google Earth has it right (big if) then Bramble Cay is 230km from Cape York and 57km from the PNG mainland. Don’t think the rats got there by swimming. Maybe on flood debris? The Cay is right in front of the estuary of the Fly River. So their habitat could conceivably have been affected by the (ongoing) Ok Tedi disaster.

  27. ‘… the melomys were last seen in 2009, and after an extensive search for the animal in 2014, a report has recommended its status be changed from “endangered” to “extinct” …’ (The Guardian).
    If they were on an “endangered” list, so precious and their habitat so precarious why weren’t a number trapped and transported to Papua New Guinea where they are alleged to have come from originally and probably still exist?
    Maybe the little critters on the island had to be sacrificed to serve a ‘higher cause’.

  28. The CAGW hypothesis will likely become extinct in 5~7 years….
    Perhaps CAGW alarmists should now change their mascot from the polar bear (whose numbers are INCREASING) to this extinct rat.

  29. Their habitat sounds to be about the right size to be swept clean of all life by the wake of a medium sized research vessel.

      • Rainbow Warrior is underwater too. They made a scuba diving reef out of it. Much more valuable now that its under water.
        We still hate the frogs for doing that. Next time they get themselves in a fix, do not call US for help.

    • 3 metres high, a couple of hectares, fishermen used to let their dogs onto the island to hunt the melomys, and something pretty bad seems to have happened to the vegetation.

  30. 10 minutes reading of the report reveals some interesting unreported details. The devil is always in the details.
    Apparently wild dogs eat them, and are brought to the island periodically. From the report.
    “Direct mortality of Bramble Cay melomys individuals due to predation by domestic dogs brought
    ashore from fishing vessels (A. Moller-Nielsen pers. comm.) and hunting by visiting indigenous
    people from Papua New Guinea (A. Ketchell pers. comm.) would have contributed to pressures on
    this isolated rodent population”.
    You think?
    It may not be extinct. It might occur on other places, including the PNG mainland.
    “the possibility that the species occurs elsewhere on islands in the Torres Strait deserves serious
    “Together, these observations and associated evidence suggest a New Guinean origin of the Bramble
    Cay melomys is not only plausible but perhaps the more likely of the two hypotheses.”
    Did they look properly on PNG.? Apparently not.
    “However, a possibility exists that the Bramble Cay melomys occurs in the Fly River delta area of
    southern New Guinea and so, until this area is adequately surveyed, it may be premature to formally
    declare the species extinct.”
    This kind of sloppy journalism wouldn’t past muster in any other field except within environmentalism, for reasons that are obscure to me.

  31. It gets worse folks. Paul Ehrlich and his fellow doomsters are claiming that, thanks to man, we are now in the 6th mass extinction event, the last one being 65 mya – the one that took out the dinosaurs. And of course, “manmade climate change” is a big part of it. These people are mentally ill.

  32. Look Fellers and smart, Whatever? send a pied piper to
    Sante Fe Texas and I will let them collect as many of the four species of rats that run around.
    Tell them I will serve bar-b-q brisket, fresh pickled okra, blackberry honey mead, and homemade cheesecake with clementine orange marmalade.

  33. The rat’s kinda cute, but it’s still A RAT! We won’t miss it regardless of how it disappeared, if it even did disappear. Talk about stupid, insipid, transparent propaganda!

  34. The first three words, , are the product of anti-science or ignorance or Post Modern Science, your choice. Everything that follows is to feed speculation. So under the guise of climate, let’s by all means have a dialog about the rodents. Rats!

  35. Why this matters at all is beyond me, I have been living my life quite nicely without even knowing if this rat existed. Apparently most if not all of humanity survived very nicely prior to 1845 not know this rat existed.

  36. Bryant, et al (2011): “Melomys rubicola, found only on Bramble Cay, 50 km south of New Guinea, is more closely related to Australian Melomys, particularly M. capensis, than to any of the New Guinean species. Results suggest that M. rubicola and M. capensis last shared a common ancestor in the early Pleistocene, a time when land bridges existed connecting Bramble Cay to Cape York.”;jsessionid=FA114A8F2C7C5F77B306D24068F4081E.f03t03?userIsAuthenticated=false&deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=
    This is at odds with the later Queensland study, but at least it is based on genetics. Question is, if rubicula has been isolated for a million years, how did they survive Eemian sea levels? There must have been some intermediate safe haven involved where they have now been long extinct.

  37. I have some overly demanding bandicoots in my backyard. I’ll bet if we shipped a few of those over to Bramble Cay, no one would be able to tell the difference.

  38. Reading this story I became very curious,.. one of my quirks I guess.
    Where exactly is Bramble Cay? A quick inquiry using DuckDuckGo to discover under “Bramble Cay Topo” resulted in an Australian Government site (see the link below). Sure enough there was an entry for the island.
    Part of the reason that I started this search was prompted by seeing the transmitting tower stationed on the island. Its presence was to me blatant! I wonder what power level it runs at?
    Many people on this thread have mentioned the actual issues that this species faced living on this land from its extremely limited area, and meager elevation, to its’ sparse vegetation. Add to that you have the narrow breeding environment that the creature lives (lived?) in and it would seem to me that the smallest of added stresses could have compounding effects.
    According to the map I found, Bramble Cay is surrounded by shallow water and is about 217m long. Heck the larger transmission towers near me are usually located away from populated areas by many hundreds of meters. Did any one pay attention to the power regulations when it came to such a location? Something tells me that nobody skipped a beat in granting the permit to build the tower, IF a permit was even required, which I doubt it was. Such is the nature of bureaucratic thinking and behavior, in my experience.
    Now I am not implying that I am paranoid about such technology and the effects of transmission radiation. However I am wondering if there are people on this thread who can also noodle over this situation? This small mammal had no place to go to avoid exposure to this towers transmissions. It’s reported that it nests under debris or in burrows. Those burrows cannot be too deep because the island is barely a few feet in elevation. The occasional below average tropical storm would seem to be sufficient enough to swamp the island. To me it’s astounding that this creature survived at all. It probably washed up on the shores of the island from some other not too distant land mass (see Google Maps view for its’ location).
    Try this link for the map:

    • I don’t want to get into the argument regarding radio frequency radiation.
      However the construction of this tower would have required multiple humans tramping all over that island for several days straight. Crushing who knows how many nesting locations.
      Then there is the regular maintenance of it.
      What is the power source for this transmission tower and how does that impact the islands ecology.
      If anyone is looking for a culprit, I suspect Charlie here has found the real one.

  39. Any bets that this rat will be discovered again, just like that other paper that claimed global warming caused extinction?

  40. Claims are flying that Global Warming has claimed its first mammal”
    Hang on, I thought we’d already succeeded in wiping out a quarter of all species on Earth – or was it a third, it’s hard to keep track. Aren’t we in the middle of The Umpteenth Great Extinction Event, or some such nonsense?
    I wish these catastrophists would try to keep their stories consistent, it’s ever so difficult keeping track of what I’m supposed to lose sleep over!

  41. “It is possible that a catastrophic inundation of the island has already occurred ”
    Hardly an expression to put into a scientific document. There should be plenty of signs of catastrophic inundation, especially given the time frame of just 12 years . Why don’t they do the job properly? Send some one who knows what they are doing. Speculation has no place within such issues given the likely public response to their suggestion

  42. From the IUCN Red List, a main reference of endangered species. Emphasis mine:

    Habitat and Ecology
    Habitat and Ecology: Melomys rubicola is nocturnal (P. Latch pers. comm.). It lives amongst the vegetation on the cay and uses burrows as refuges (P. Latch pers. comm.). The cay, as measured in 2004, is approximately 5 ha in size with a vegetated portion 2.2 ha (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, unpublished data). It has one of the most restricted distributions of any mammal species. Little is known of the species’ biology and ecology (P. Latch pers. comm.).
    Major Threat(s): The main threat is to its habitat. The island is eroding through natural processes (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, unpublished data), and it is possible that a major storm could eliminate all suitable habitat (Lee 1995). The introduction of any exotic plant, predator, or disease is also a significant threat to this very small, isolated population. Inbreeding depression, while potentially a threat to a small population such as this, is considered a lower risk than natural disasters or invasive species (Dickman et al. 2000).

    I did like the term “inbreeding depression”, gave a great image of a bunch of bummed-out teenage mosaic-tailed rats looking at all their sister and brothers and cousins …

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