From the Scientific Urban Legend Department: “The little Bramble Cay melomys is likely the first mammal claimed by man-made climate change”

Guest Essay by Kip Hansen

The Claim:

Bramble Cay melomys (mosaic-tailed rat) is the first mammal to go extinct due to human-induced climate change.




“A small rodent that lived only on a single island off Australia is likely the world’s first mammal to be a casualty of climate change…”  National Geographic

“Bramble Cay melomys, a rodent round in body, long in whisker and lumpy in tail. The creatures are probably the first mammal casualty of man-made, or anthropogenic, climate change,… “  The Washington Post

“University of Queensland and Queensland Government researchers have confirmed that the Bramble Cay melomys – the only mammal species endemic to the Great Barrier Reef – is the first mammal to go extinct due to human-induced climate change.”  The University of Queensland News

….and over 80,000  more.

“The key factor responsible for the extirpation of this population was almost certainly ocean inundation of the low-lying cay, very likely on multiple occasions, during the last decade, causing dramatic habitat loss and perhaps also direct mortality of individuals. Available information about sea-level rise and the increased frequency and intensity of weather events producing extreme high water levels and damaging storm surges in the Torres Strait region over this period point to human-induced climate change being the root cause of the loss of the Bramble Cay melomys.”   Confirmation of the extinction…

The Bottom Line:

There are no longer any Bramble Cay melomys living on Bramble Cay.  Their extirpation was almost certainly caused by environmental degradation resulting from the very nature of Bramble Cay as a “geologically temporary..[island]..of considerable instability, which may respond dramatically to fluctuations in [its] environment”, with a maximum elevation of 3 meters (~ 10 feet), made of  constantly shifting sand that collects around a small rocky outcrop  surrounded by a shallow reef.  The area of the cay that supports vegetation, the main source of shelter and food for the melomys, has been shrinking since 1998, down to less than 10% of the 1998 area in 2014.

The main contributing factor to this degradation is the success of other species, primarily the Green Turtle and various sea birds,  both of which use the island for nesting (and roosting) which resulted in increasing  disturbance and destruction of the vegetation required by the melomys for survival.

Bramble Cay suffered at least one (Spring 2014)  or more (or a series of) weather events that inundated the island (maybe repeatedly), that possibly would  have  reduced the melomys population below a sustainable level, both directly and through destruction of vegetation, their primary food source, however, it is doubtful that there were in fact any remaining melomys at that late date.  No melomys had been official recorded on Bramble since 2004.

The official cause — climate change – is speculative and partially based on predictions of future sea level rise and future increased storminess and intensity of storms.

It is this author’s opinion that the human contribution to their extinction is limited to the utter inadequacy of the Recovery Plan for the Bramble Cay Melomys, Melomys rubicola prepared by Peter Latch in 2008.

Many readers will be satisfied with this summary, having already seen other posts on this topic.  Those who have a deeper interest – in the facts and processes that produce a misleading government report – are encouraged to read the full essay which contains extensive data and photos, but ONLY if you are extremely interested – if not, you will be bored silly.

The Long Version of this essay in available here in pdf format.

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Author’s Comment Policy:

As always, I will be happy to answer your questions about the demise of the mosaic-tailed rat from Bramble Cay.

As regular readers will realize, I have tried something new — I have made the main essay rather short, and included the long form essay as a pdf in the WUWT server. Please let me know if you prefer this format — I generally don’t write short pieces.

Let’s try not to fight the Climate Wars here in the comments.

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June 27, 2016 1:12 pm

Is that the actual cay pictured in the Twitter post? What are its dimensions? What is the tower in the middle of the island?

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 1:29 pm

Thanks much. It seems as though during a big storm the little rats would have had to huddle near the spot that was 10 feet above sea level. Maybe they all drowned or were swept away in a big storm.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 1:43 pm

I can’t imagine there being much genetic diversity left in the population also birds and viruses go together like ham and eggs.
Any idea as to how long the rat population resided on the island and where it originated from?

James Schrumpf
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 4:19 pm

“1 hectare = 1 International Rugby Field” does not much help your American readers. Just sayin’.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 5:01 pm

One hectare = 2.47105 acre.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 5:15 pm

The logical thing to do would have been to capture some mating couples to preserve them. Another of my ideas is to preserve indefinitely the DNA of all endangered species as well as eggs and sperm. If they then go extinct we have a way to bring them back if we find it was detrimental for them to go. I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that most species wouldn’t be missed except for emotional reasons.

James the Elder
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 6:00 pm

One typical city block is slightly less than one hectare, or one Walmart+parking. About 8 of the cay would fit under roof of The Mall of the Americas.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 6:11 pm

A small but nominally standard US house lot is 5000 sq ft (50 x 100 feet). An acre is thus less than nine such lots, without the alleys behind them. A hectare would then be about 22 such lots, ie less than a typical rectangular city block with 26 such lots separated by an alley:comment image
An acre is about 209 feet on a side, 43,560 sq ft. I grew up on a ranch, so can visualize an acre.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 10:25 pm

For visualization on a more personal level, an acre is 43,560 square feet or 4,046.9 square meters.
A standing person occupies approximately 3 square feet or 0.28 square meters (not allowing for personal space.
Using this metric, an acre is a crowd of 14,520 people and a hectare is a crowd of 35,880 people.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 28, 2016 12:30 am

If anyone can come up with a quick, easy visual to help with hectares and acres, I would appreciate it.

Take one Ben Johnson, dope him, and put him a middle of a round hectare. It takes him more than 5 secs to get out, but well less than 10.
However, I’m incapable of understanding unless someone tells me how much Ben Johnson is in price or beer bottles. 😉

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 28, 2016 7:01 am

Any species limited to a single island is at serious, real, and natural risk of extinction. Invasive species, disease, or natural calamity are always looming. And, invasive species raft, blow, or swim to the island at a relatively constant rate, in this case, not a high rate, judging by how far off the coast of a much larger island it it.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 28, 2016 7:45 am

Kip Hansen – ” Those facts also indicate that the government utterly failed to protect this species from extinction…”
But the government did publish a plan to protect them, four years after they became extinct. Well done!

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 30, 2016 5:50 pm

Americans, the key is about the size of ten football fields (including end zones) . . if my guzzintas are up to par.
(Canadians, naturally, missed the whole 100 yards even boat, and would have to play in the water on four of theirs ; )

Reply to  daveandrews723
June 27, 2016 9:17 pm

This species was only found on Bramble Cay, a small vegetated coral cay (a reef island composed of coral rubble and sand) roughly 340 m long by 150 m wide, but subject to seasonal changes in both shape and size,
Being confined to a single, very small, isolated location, the species was susceptible to a range of threats. It appeared to be inbred, an intrinsic problem that raised doubts about the long term viability of the population.
Certainly, anecdotal reports indicate at least some individuals were killed by domestic dogs that were released onto the island from visiting boats, but also that the species was hunted by indigenous people who visited from PNG on a sporadic basis.
Available evidence indicates that the anthropogenic climate change-induced impacts of sea-level rise, …….
Well, obviously….couldn’t have been anything else

Sandy In Limousin
Reply to  daveandrews723
June 28, 2016 12:56 am

An acre is a chain (22 yards) by a furlong (220 yards) if that helps, probably not. An Hectare is 10,000 square metres, almost 12,000 square yards

Reply to  SC
June 27, 2016 1:18 pm

Oh, great … now the seagulls will starve!

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 1:51 pm

I am actually astounded at how those rats could have survived there for so long. The multitude of el ninos over the past few decades could have had a desicating effect on the native vegetation as well.
Still I can’t help but think that it must have been a much larger island at some point in the not too distant past.

Horace Jason Oxboggle
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 3:37 pm

No, the turtles sprinted after them, and crushed them! The birds then ate the carcasses. Then, a researcher created a species recovery plan, four years after evidence of any survivors had gone!
Then again, maybe the rats swam to the Maldives!

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 3:37 pm

Just wanted to say I really LIKE the “new format”. I’m not one to read huge essays unless I’m terribly interested in the subject matter. I like a good, detailed summary and a link for more information if I should choose to pursue the topic. So this one was just about perfect to me. 🙂
About the rats….so a species of rodent called “Grassland Melomys, Grassland Mosaic-tailed Rat” was introduced onto a “cay” (which is a temporary, unstable island on top of a reef that forms and gets destroyed, repeatedly, by ocean storms and currents) from somewhere else, most likely on storm debris from Papua New Guinea or Indonesia, or Australian coasts where they STILL live today, is no longer found on that specific island, and they get to declare that the entire species is “extinct”???? According to the following link, it’s a wildly abundant species that exists in other coastal places that area.
Unless the “Bramble Cay melomys” were some kind of special and distinct species found nowhere else in the world, they were just “grassland melomys-mosaic railed rats” that happened to be living in Bramble Cay…and if those exact same rats live in other areas, they are not extinct as a species! In fact, CLIMATE CHANGE is the reason they lived there in the first place!!!

Jeff in Calgary
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 3:47 pm

Aphan: I have seen this sort of over categorization before. Lemurs are another animal that has had this happen. (These lemurs live on the north face of the mountain, while these ones on the south. Must be a different species.)
If humans were categorized this way, how many species of humans would there be?

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 4:15 pm

Exact wording from the official “extinction” documentation (God bless bureaucrats-only in official government documents will you find a declaration of extinction made “with considerable confidence” AND a statement that the preceding declaration might be premature in the SAME PARAGRAPH!!!
“Because exhaustive efforts have failed to record the Bramble Cay melomys at its only known location and extensive surveys have not found it on any other Torres Strait or Great Barrier Reef island, the assertion that Australia has lost another mammal species can be made with considerable confidence.On this basis, the Bramble Cay melomys qualifies for listing as extinct in the wild under both state and federal legislation. Significantly, this probably represents the first recorded mammalian extinction due to anthropogenic climate change. However, new information is provided>/b> 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, which would imply that the Bramble Cay melomys or a closely related species may occur in the Fly River region, an area that has received relatively little mammal fauna survey effort to date.
Consequently, at this stage, it may be premature to declare the Bramble Cay melomys extinct on a global scale.”

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 6:51 pm

Portulaca oleracea or verdolaga is considered a weed and grows all over the world. It is actually edible and has a nice slightly lemony taste. It can be added to salads or slightly cooked with pork meat as Mexicans like it.
As a biologist I disagree with those that defend that the melomys should have been captured and captive bred. This is a derived population isolated on a sand bar. Extremely hazardous outlook. It is worth to do reasonable conservation efforts to preserve their habitat, but to take them to some other place would make them an invasive species and that is precisely what we shouldn’t do.
As any other animal (or plant) that has taken a chance in colonizing an extreme habitat, they are at the mercy of nature, as they have always been. We should not interfere (Prime directive?).
For as long as that sand bar is there nature will keep trying to colonize it with more species. Most of them will not succeed and in the end the sand bar will probably be gone. No point in getting sentimental over this. We are a strange species. We bomb and shoot children of our own species, yet we get all worked up for a few rodents that died out naturally.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 8:16 pm

That is not a correct definition or usage for species.
Yes, splitters are always finding or adding another reason for why their idea of a species is truly unique.
Unfortunately, individual biologist use of their personal opinions regarding what makes a species leads one into crowded corners when they run into a species that defies categorization. Usually leading said biologist into deciding something untoward is a species.

A unified species concept can be achieved by treating existence as a separately evolving metapopulation lineage as the only necessary property of species…”

“…Thus, under all species concepts, a species is a separately evolving metapopulation lineage, but under the isolation version of the biological species concept, the lineage also has to be intrinsically reproductively isolated from other lineages; under the ecological species concept, the lineage also has to occupy a different niche; under the phenetic species concept, it also has to be phenetically distinguishable; under the phylogenetic species concept (monophyly version), it also has be monophyletic in terms of its component genes, organisms, or subpopulations, and so forth…”

In spite of the appellation ‘species’ given to the “Bramble Cay” rats, there is little evidence that the population there deserves a species label.
Nor did the PDF ‘Essay’ compare the DNA of the Bramble Cay rats to the Grassland melomys DNA.
Add that into the researcher failures to fully search likely locations for where the melomys originated.
A small isolated very inbred community of melomys marooned on a desert island that are genetically identified as deriving from a single MtDna lineage does not make a case for a unique species.
Could they evolve into a species, perhaps, given sufficient time for genetic mutation to traits that are passed to descendants.
One of the portions you are missing from your ‘species’ discussion in your essay is the relevant discussions regarding interbreeding populations.
The Bramble Cay interbreeding isolation is only due to their desert island location. No attempts were made to determine whether Bramble Cay melomys would breed with other melomys.
Unlikely though is the possibility of a successful evolving colony of melomys. The cay is not protected from major storms and typhoons. Any of which could combine with a spring/winter tide to fully submerge the island. Though I think decimation of the rats is more likely due to excessive inbreeding and possible introduction of one or more hungry serpents.
I found it interesting that the researchers recorded the estimate of when the Bramble Cay melomys genetically diverged from Australia’s Cape York melomys M. capensis, but provided no similar DNA work to New Guinea melomys.
Nor apparently was there any attempt to develop a fossil record for Bramble Cay melomys.
Of further note:
Recently it has come to our attention that Queensland University Anthros might’ve caused the extinction of a unique mouse that was known to live in several rooms.
The mouse is small, white colored with red eyes.
Investigation has identified third party persons who remembered seeing many of these mice freely running around in wire mesh tunnels and enclosures.
However recent visitors to the University have been unable to locate any remnants of this population. Even their wire mesh tunnels and enclosures are missing.
Application of ‘species’ to the Bramble Cay melomys without detailed research is akin to deciding white rats ad white mice are unique species.
Or that North Carolina raised Brittany spaniels are a different species from Pennsylvania raised Brittany spaniels; or that they are even a different species from the Irish wolfhound.
Lions may interbreed with Tigers and Polar bears might interbreed with Grizzly bears, but it is not a common occurrence; especially when intra-breeding species opportunities are easily available.
Bramble Cay is an interesting name…
In our neck of the woods, brambles specifically refers to plants like blackberries, raspberries, roses, briars…
One would think that Bramble Cay meant that there were a large population of intergrown thorny bushes.
From the plant descriptions, one wonders why the island isn’t named pigweed or hogweed?
Or perhaps the plant growth there has substantially changed over the years?

Bob Boder
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 28, 2016 5:43 am

Is this even a real thing or these just rats brought to this island by sailors sometime in the last 150yrs?

Bob Boder
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 28, 2016 5:49 am

I guess what I am asking is this and anthropologic-species being destroyed by catastrophic natural environment change CNEC and what the heck are we going to do about it. I say we need to take total control of the planetary ecological-environmental system now before its too late!

Jeff in Calgary
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 28, 2016 8:04 am

From reading this thread, it seems obvious to me that Scottish people and Chinese are 2 different species. They are isolated from each other, they eat a different diet, they have different appearance. They even act differently. Interbreeding is uncommon, and until modern times (when they were artificially brought into close proximity) was nonexistent. My (sarcastic) theory matches every definition listed here.

Reply to  SC
June 27, 2016 1:28 pm

Great picture, SC! I don’t mind commenting.
If you give a mouse a cookie…
(Title of a well-known children’s book)
However, If you give a bird a mouse… they seem to think it’s better than a cookie.
(well-known result for anyone who has mice hanging out at their bird feeders waiting for some seeds to fall and birds of prey waiting for mice to show up at the feeders)

Reply to  SC
June 27, 2016 3:24 pm

I know a man-made sea gull when I see one.

Reply to  toorightmate
June 27, 2016 3:38 pm

tooright mate… THAT was funny!

Jeff in Calgary
June 27, 2016 1:12 pm

I saw these headlines last week, and figured there must be more to the story.
Thanks for this update.

June 27, 2016 1:18 pm
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 2:40 pm

Thanks, Kip. I read your article, but not the link. That answers my question.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 7:08 pm

Just finished the pdf, KIP. I thought it was quite interesting and it didn’t seem long at all to me.
I see why I missed the link to the pdf. With your message in the blockquote, I thought it was a link to Peter Latch’s work (only) you were quoting, not your expanded article. I only had time during the day to read your posted article.
Thanks again.

June 27, 2016 1:21 pm

OMG..It’s a rat !….How many rats do humans intentionally kill every day ?

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 2:45 pm

Ha! Not for lack of trying!

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 2:48 pm

Sub species?

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 4:36 pm

We didn’t wipe out this one either. Sea levels, building up of cay territory and then tearing it down, encroaching numbers of sea turtles and sea birds that destroy plant life etc are ALL “natural” events that both create and destroy habitats. And without further and complete surveys of the Fly River region we cannot actually know if the melomys living on Bramble Bay were in fact the ONLY population of that sub species currently living on the planet.
Unless we find evidence that they sprung up in some kind of radical evolutionary process ON that island as a wholly different/unique sub species without any influence from another species of melomy, the rational, logical expectation is that they came from somewhere else, floating on storm debris, or on ships, and began to populate that island.

Bob Boder
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 28, 2016 5:53 am

no but we probably created this one in the first place.

June 27, 2016 1:25 pm

No more Melomy Amore.

David Jay
Reply to  siamiam
June 28, 2016 9:44 am

Is that anything like Muskrat Love?

June 27, 2016 1:28 pm

Let me suggest a different hypothesis, one that is back but just as much evidence as the “Global Warming doctrine”. In the article that I read about this, there was mention of the fact that passing fishermen found the critters to be quite toothsome. Now what infests Asian waters that will eat just about anything contain protein? Chinese factory fishing ships. I propose that one of those found this little speck in the Ocean and tried the rodents as a food item. Maybe they were even better than Sea Cucumbers and word soon spread across the fishing fleet. The cay was raided multiple times and soon there were no critters to be found.
I say that my hypothesis has just as much probability of being right as the one from the Church of the Warmistas. That is the probability is near zero for both hypothesis.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 5:09 pm

Has anyone discussed the “endangered” status of the green sea turtle to the Traditional Owners in hopes of getting them to support protecting them by not eating their eggs? 🙂

June 27, 2016 1:32 pm

There is no real evidence that CO2 has any effect on climate hence there is no real evidence that Mankind has had any effect on global climate. Little islands have been appearing and disappearing as ice age cycling has been lowering and raising sea levels so extinctions like this are the natural routine. The previous interglacial period was warmer than this one with more ice cap melting and higher sea levels and Mankind had nothing to do with it. A more significant cause of extinctions is loss of habitat due to Mankind’s out of control population..

June 27, 2016 1:41 pm

How would a mamal get there to begin with? Ship wreck survivor? Just sayin, the did not evolve there…..

Reply to  ossqss
June 27, 2016 1:46 pm

The = They
Curse you mobile autocorrect 🙁

Reply to  ossqss
June 27, 2016 1:46 pm

My guess is drift wood.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 2:25 pm

I wonder how often the population got a boost from theory 2 in action?

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 2:43 pm

Were the Bramble Cay melomys capable of breeding with the Papuan melomys? If so, wouldn’t this more accurately be characterized as the “extinction” of a breed or subspecies?

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 2:59 pm

DM, when a species ceases to exist in one location (Bramble Cay), but viable populations exist elsewhere (PNG Fly River delta) then the correct term for the event is extirpation, NOT extinction. The species still exists, so it cannot be extinct. Kip used the correct terminology in his post. All the MSM warmunist alarm stuff just demonstrated ignorance.
Hopefully the longer .PDF becomes another chapter in a whole book from KH on the climate wars. I am certain my ebook publisher would be interested.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 5:16 pm

I suspect the same. Not just logs, but floating mats, such as hypothesized to have carried monkeys to the New World.
The the Fly River Delta is studded with low and swampy islands covered with mangrove and nipa palm, and lined with similar vegetation on both banks.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 6:15 pm

Thanks Kip. #2 would make sense as some rats nest in trees (note flashing wrapped Palm trees at many tropical resorts). I would bet that Cay has long been visited by boat and those possibly carried some stowaways too.

Reply to  ossqss
June 27, 2016 2:44 pm

Wikipedia: It was similar to the Cape York melomys except that it had some protein differences and a coarser tail caused by elevated scales. It was prominent in herdfields and strandline vegetation where it built burrows.
Is that what makes it a species? Are Europeans a species? Are Somalis a species?

Reply to  Curious George
June 27, 2016 4:47 pm

Ah, taxonomy. Splitters or cladist clumpers? Do the species parameters match for every species? Are there the same differences between each species in a genus? How many differences are needed to “qualify” as a subspecies? Is there as much difference between the mouse subspecies as there is between bear subspecies or between lizard subspecies? What should be a determining factor: outward appearance, anatomy, behavior, habitat type, habitat location? Ability to interbreed? Is the genetic difference a reason to declare the animal a subspecies, or is it just a population difference?
At a certain point, just going with a really broad clade like “lizard” starts to seem like a good idea.
Sidenote: Cultural practices have actually been suggested as a conservation consideration. Apparently certain dolphin populations exhibit learned behavior that is unique, so the argument is that even if there are other populations of that species, losing a particular population is still significant. Regardless, I doubt this rodent had a lifestyle different to those on other islands.

Reply to  Curious George
June 28, 2016 5:49 pm

An interesting list of (the many) Australian indigenous rodent species : .. funny thing is I hear even today kids are being taught dingoes are our only ‘native’ placental mammal. I remember getting caned as a kid for arguing that they weren’t and river rats pre-dated them (this was shortly before my parents were advised to stop me from reading, as it was interfering with my ‘learning process’)
As to the conservation department who’s job it is to protect endangered wildlife, they acknowledge the rats as : ” a small population restricted to one small isolated sand cay it is particularly vulnerable to an extinction event like a major cyclone. These circumstances have led to some doubts being expressed about its long-term survival (1995)”
So they drew up some lovely charts and came up with an action plan with a recovery objective.
The recovery objective in their own words – “The overall objective of this recovery plan is to secure and enhance the status of the Bramble Cay melomys through an integrated program of monitoring, on ground management, searches for other populations and raising public awareness”
translation: The plan to conserve these rats involved the conservation department watching them, they looked for more elsewhere and told people about these rats..
and apparently they felt their job was done. It’s nice to have charts and action plans and procedures and protocols .. and since no one bothered to add ‘captive breeding program’ to this action plan they didn’t feel the need to undertake such a task. (heaven’s sakes.. they’re rats – how hard are they to breed??)

Ivor Ward
June 27, 2016 1:44 pm

Got rid of a rat. What’s bad about that?

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 2:47 pm

“[…] melomys can not help it if their closest relatives are rats — any more than you or I can..”
You might want to rephrase that, Kip. As for me, only half of my closest relatives are rats and most of them are incarcerated ;o)

Reply to  Ivor Ward
June 27, 2016 5:49 pm

Some rats are pest species. This one wasn’t.

June 27, 2016 1:50 pm

How did the rats get there in the first place? I’m assuming from ship wrecks. I wish I knew the source, but I’ve read that rats being highly adaptable to their surroundings, also evolve very quickly.
Based on this, I hope scientists or others don’t get the idea that a common rat could re-evolve to have the same characteristics which made this sub-species unique.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 3:08 pm

They could also have simply rafted over on storm detritus. Only takes one gravid female survivor. Not that far to raft. What is clear from the trapping studies up to 2004 is that the melomys population decline was associated with strong evidence of detrimental inbreeding. Means there n ver was sufficient genetic diversity in the population to have ‘evolved’ as a distinct species. That supports the raft from PNG hypothesis.
The grey wolves of Isle Royale were extirpated just a few years ago by inbreeding. Was probably accidental that the founding pair/pack crossed Lake Superior’s winter ice to Isle Royale in the first place. Their natural hunting grounds are deer and moose in the vast sub-boreal muskeag tracts of northern Minnesota and southern Ontario.

Bill Illis
June 27, 2016 2:01 pm

In 1998, scientists using live traps captured 42 of the estimated 92 individuals.
(Reminds me of the penguin researchers who will killing the penguins with the bands they were putting on their wings).
Change from 2011 to 2013.comment image
I don’t think this was climate change, this was loss of habitat from the sea gulls and careless researchers. From 2013 …

Roy Spencer
June 27, 2016 2:16 pm


Bob Boder
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 28, 2016 6:00 am

it was a doomed “species” no matter what, it also was almost certainly brought there by man in the first place. There are millions of “species” that go extinct because there were never enough mating pairs or because the environment was not capable of sustain the population growth. This was a “species” created by man and destroyed by nature stop the ridiculous BS.

texas tea
June 27, 2016 2:29 pm

I was curious if anybody looked into the possibility that when the light tower was built it provided birds of prey with a roost that was not there naturally, thereby enhancing the opportunity for predation that otherwise would not have existed?

Reply to  texas tea
June 27, 2016 3:10 pm

sounds reasonable, good pt.

Jeff in Calgary
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 28, 2016 8:17 am

Here is my recovery plan.
1) Put spiky things on the tower to prevent birds from sitting on it. This would likely reduce the bird population.
2) Figure out how to stop the turtles from wrecking the vegetation. (Fences?)
3) Recover/add as much new land as possible using concrete filled tubes perpendicular to the beach (discussed here
4) Re introduce the rat from PNG (where it likely originally was from). Maybe this time it would work better if the population started with more than one breading pair.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 29, 2016 10:38 am

No record does not mean never there. The white bellied sea eagle is indigenous to both southern PNG and Australia, and can fly great distances. It’s easy to imagine that predatory birds used the lighthouse as a perch point but not a nesting area. If there were abundant vittles crawling around on the ground, the same birds would return over and over again if the island was within their hunting range.
Predatory birds would also mark the island if they know baby turtle vittles show up regularly, and would hunt and eat the rats in the absence or lack of turtles. Unless scientists are identifying every guano patch and feather and can confidently say that all of the ones on the island are tern or boobie, it’s entirely possible the island was hunted clean by rat eating birds.

June 27, 2016 2:39 pm

If they captured 42 live in ’98 then it seems kind of odd that some didn’t make it to a zoo or reserve, knowing that they were rare and endangered. There are no other cays or islands where these could be found? And if they came from the New Guinea mainland, then there are none of them there either?
I take it that subspecies means they were not so differentiated that they would be able to progenerate with the species they evolved from. I wonder how many years it took for them to differentiate into a subspecies?

Bob Boder
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 28, 2016 6:01 am

why? for what purpose?

June 27, 2016 2:52 pm

The genus melomys seems to be a collection of rodent “species,” each of which evolved as small populations in limited, vulnerable habitats…
It’s almost as if they were intelligently designed to be endangered… /SARC

Reply to  David Middleton
June 27, 2016 2:54 pm

…Or… Meolmys are proof that rodents are highly adaptable and can evolve to fill almost any environmental niche… Even temporary niches.

Reply to  David Middleton
June 27, 2016 5:13 pm

“…[M]ost biologists agree that they would happily breed with Australian and PNG melomys.”

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 3:07 pm

So it might be possible to re-evolve, given the right circumstances. Although specific characteristics might be a crap-shoot.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 3:12 pm

In fairness to biologists, the traditional biological definition of species only works well for sexually reproducing species.
However, the modern definition would mean that Rosie O’Donnell and I are different species… /SARC
The problem with the use of species as a measurement of extinction rates is the fact that extinctions in the fossil record are generally measured at the genus, or higher, taxonomic level. With the modern, nebulous, definition of species, it’s almost inevitable that we will always be on the precipice of a sixth mass extinction.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 3:16 pm

Since they readily and happily produce fertile offspring with related rat “species”, they are at best a subspecies.
I agree that the biologists’ tendency to split rather than lump varieties explains the species classification.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 3:21 pm

The polar bear (Ursus martimus) is the perfect example. It cladistically plots right in the middle of a group of brown bears (Ursus arctos).
Ursus maritimus (polar bear) should be Ursus arctos martimus.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 3:26 pm

KH, a comment mainly because I hope polished versions of your terrific essays will eventually become a book. I had a big argument with Susan Crawford about whether polar bears are really a species, since they can breed fertile progeny with grizzly (brown) bears. My arguement was all dogs, as different as they may look, are just Canis lupus familiarensis (domesticated wolf subspecies). There are over half a million deliberate dog/wolf halfbreeds). But all dogs eat the same dogfood and behave like dogs (including feral,pack behavior). Her argument as a biologist was that not just differences in form (neck, paws, fur) but differences in habit made polars a true species. Main diet seals, no winter hibernation, and so on. I researched speciation further, and concluded she was right. The example in essay No Bodies is the red wolf, which is but one of several viable coyote/wolf hybrids. It is clear that the coyote and wolf are different species. One hunts small game (mainly mice) in a solitary fashion. The other hunts exclusively big game in a pack fashion. Some coywolves including Red are coyote like. Others ( including a new hybrid in Virginia and North Carolina) are more wolf like and capable of preying on white tailed deer.
Whether melomys are more like dog subspecies/breeds, or more like polar and grizzly bears, is a more complicated question than just ability to interbreed. Now you have the benefit of my schooling by Dr. Crawford.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 3:30 pm

DM, yes, that cladistic framework was also my argument on other, simpler for laymen to intuit, grounds to Dr. Crawford. She convinced me otherwise. See just posted comment.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 3:50 pm

Hard to say how isolated the Bramble Cay rats were and for how long. Their close kin live on both Papua and Australia. The deepest channel between Bramble and Papua is only a little over 100 feet deep. Many islands and islets lie between Australia’s Cape York Peninsula and Bramble.
There appear not to be (or have been) any behavioral barriers to breeding with their nearest neighbor rats.
Still, I agree that a few should have been collected for captive breeding. Presumably some samples were taken to test protein similarities. Researchers also could have improved their habitat.
Species definition is indeed a problem, even with sexually reproducing organisms. Polar bears are growing increasingly separate from grizzlies, but may never reach the level of hybrid infertility.
Not only are dogs all the same species, but they’re a still subspecies of wolf. Wolves probably evolved as a larger, social variety of coyotes (or a Pliocene Siberian relative), adapted to pack hunt Pleistocene megafauna, while retaining their ancestors’ ability to catch small game. But I agree that the differences between coyotes on the one hand and wolves and dogs on the other merits species-level distinction, despite the fertility of their hybrids.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 4:10 pm

A wise observation by botanist Harold Bold regarding taxonomy: “Nature mocks at human categories.” Another observation by an unknown source: “A genus is a thing; a species is a kind of a thing.” In the end, taxonomic categorization should be for practical convenience, follow a few generally consistent rules, and be accepted as best approximations of genotypic similarity. Use as scholarly ammunition is completely superfluous, although not uncommon.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 4:15 pm

June 27, 2016 at 3:26 pm
The USFWS is heavily invested in the myth that there is a “red wolf”. It has lobbied for decades to get it officially accepted as a species.
In fact, if it’s anything, it’s just a larger local variety of coyote. Might not even have much wolf in it.
When the FWS set up its breeding program in NC, they brought in big coyotes from TX presumed to be “red wolves”. But whenever they release the results of their breeding program into the “wild”, they promptly mate with local coyotes, because they are coyotes.
Local people hate the program, not surprisingly, since they have enough trouble with NC coyotes without importing bigger TX coyotes. But the idiotic boondoggle has proved impervious to budget cuts.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 5:20 pm

According to the above, we should see some very interesting new species in the near future, as some biologists, indeed, make a name for themselves.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 5:23 pm

Gabro, I know. Told the whole sordid tale in the essay No Bodies in my ebook Blowing Smoke. A small part of essay No Bodies. Provided lots of hyperlinks and references.
The last wild ‘red wolves’ were trapped in Texas and Louisiana in the 1970s. The ensuing captive breeding program selectively eliminated obvious coyote traits. On purpose because USFWS could get endangered species grant money. The sole release of four selectively bred pairs back into the wild was into an estuary not frequented by coyotes (Alligator River NWR, Ablemarle Sound, NC). And WWF now claims the bred like dogs ‘Red Wolf’ are a poster child for endangered climate change extinction from SLR in its sole remaining refuge. Total pack of deceptive warmunist lies.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 5:27 pm

re: Red wolves
IIRC, there is evidence that at one point in the past there WAS a red wolf species/subspecies in the East. However, most pure specimens were wiped out (debate amongst yourselves about the date) and the few who were left starting inbreeding with coyotes. Personally, I am in favor of the stupid (figuratively speaking, sadly) coyotes moving back across the Mississippi and staying on the western side. We would probably need a lot more wolves and mountain lions to get that to stick. Some biologists are “cheering” the coyote invasion, arguing that they are filling the predator niche left by the wolves and pumas. I would rather have the old predators.
Can you tell I really do not care for coyotes?

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 6:23 pm

Alleycat, some words of encouragement. On my SW (Uplands) Wisonsin farm, we know well the species difference between coyotes and wolves. Coyotes yap at the moon, wolves howl. So two years ago, we had a transient wolf pair/pack (the big male and smaller female pupped three into an old hay bale row) and could listen to the difference. My multistate hunting guests were enthralled.
That southwest Wisconsin solitary wolf pack moved on before any of us needed to take action( aka rifles at full range to protect our cows.) Male was darker and about 3x any coyote we ever saw on the farm at the time. Many of those out deer hunting.
No harm, no foul. We were thrilled to be visited from Wisconsin’s north, not least that our area is over infested with white tail deer now carrying CWD. Wolves would solve both problems given a decent. We welcome them back. With a few conditions.

Bruce Cobb
June 27, 2016 3:30 pm

The fact that they went extinct at all was a mite convenient. Sacrificed on the altar of the CAGW religion perhaps?

June 27, 2016 3:30 pm

The island has a maximum elevation of 3 meters. During the Holocene Climate Optimum, sea levels were about 2 meters higher. It would seem that the species was probably not extant on the island during that time as it would have been regularly awash from storms. It is most likely that the species was a recent arrival to the island.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 3:51 pm

Which is a lot of rat generations.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 7:02 pm

Point is, the population there was likely ephemeral anyway. To say humans caused the disappearance or that any regulatory policy anyone could implement would make any significant difference is nonsense.

Ian H
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 11:59 pm

Lock up a bunch of fruitflies for a few years and you too can have the pleasure of naming a new species.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 29, 2016 11:02 am

150 years= a lot of art generations.
IF the rats indeed had no natural predators, and had established a successful (and rapid in rats/mice) breeding pattern “prior” to human caused sea level encroachment (eye roll) or turtle invasion one would expect to find in the island’s soil layer after layer of rat bones and mummifying carcasses. After all, the bodies would remain there unless the mice were engaging in burial at sea rituals with their departed relatives.

Reply to  crosspatch
June 28, 2016 5:53 am

My thought as well. If it is/was a species, it was either the last remnant or not a well established species.

June 27, 2016 4:11 pm

Has the Pope apologized to the late rats yet?

Gerry, England
June 27, 2016 4:40 pm

Jim Steele’s excellent Landscapes and Cycles book has lots of examples like this where the warmist bandwagon is undone by local experts.

Reply to  Gerry, England
June 27, 2016 5:46 pm

Agree it is a terrific book. Every climate skeptic should own and be intimately familiar with a well thumbed copy (or electronically annotated equivalent, my current preference).

Eric Barnes
June 27, 2016 4:47 pm

Who are these conspirators who are killing rats?
Can we just as easily blame the plants for not consuming enough CO2 to prevent this tragedy?
Did they name anyone who is responsible for this?
If not, it’s just an idle conspiracy theory.
Ho Hum, out to the SUV to take a nice long trip into the mountains.
HT Leif Svalgaard.

Jimmy Haigh
June 27, 2016 4:53 pm

It’s OK. We’ll discover another 10 new species today to make up for it.

June 27, 2016 4:56 pm

The reason the scientific community are attributing the extinction to climate change is because the increasing insult to vegetation and increasing erosion are attributed to increasing inundation of Bramble Cay by the ocean.
Most critically, however, the extent of herbaceous vegetation on Bramble Cay decreased dramatically during the 10-year period following 2004, when the species was last captured. The primary cause of this significant decline in habitat was repeated seawater penetration of the island’s interior, which killed or damaged the vegetation. […] Available evidence indicates that the anthropogenic climate change-induced impacts of sea-level rise, coupled with an increased frequency and intensity of weather events that produced damaging storm surges and extreme high water levels, particularly during the last decade, were most likely responsible for the extirpation of the Bramble Cay melomys from Bramble Cay.

Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 27, 2016 10:13 pm

There was no evidence of inundation of Bramble Cay mentioned prior to the 2014 incident — other than some anecdotal reports from regional fishermen of days-long gales (which are not uncommon anywhere on the seas.)

Are you aware of the documentation of the (at least partial) inundation of Bramble Cay by the papers mentioned on pp23 of this .pdf?
Events involving at least the partial inundation of Bramble Cay have been documented on several occasions over the last quarter century (Dennis & Storch 1998, Latch 2008, Gynther et al. 2014a). Dennis & Storch (1998) record a partial inundation event occurring shortly before 1991. This may correspond to the anecdotal report obtained during the present field work of seas breaking over the south-eastern end of Bramble Cay in the late 1980s or early 1990s, resulting in water lying in the island’s interior (A. Moller-Nielsen pers. comm.). A significant weather system in July 2005 during which “waves were reported being thrown up over the cay as a result of gale force winds pounding the cay for several days coupled with very high tides” (G. Romano & K. Gutchen in Latch 2008) was probably responsible for, or at least contributed to, the 49% reduction in vegetation cover on the island in December 2011, as compared to the previous assessment in November 2004 (Table 1; Latch 2008, Waller et al. 2014). Gynther et al. (2014a) proposed seawater inundation resulting from one or more extreme weather events over the two and a quarter years following December 2011 as the most likely cause of the further 94% loss of vegetation cover that occurred by March 2014 (Table 1).

None of the surveys of the cay showed in photos or related in writing any evidence of inundation.

Did you know that this is the presumed cause of the loss of vegetation species and vegetation cover on Bramble Cay of the past 25 years?

Ian H
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 28, 2016 12:07 am

Since sea levels have not yet evidenced any acceleration at all due to global warming how it is possible to blame inundation on CO2. There seem to be some steps missing in the evidence chain.

June 27, 2016 5:03 pm

A species of rat which “evolved” just 150 years ago on a 12 acre, 10 foot high island, probably didn’t have much long term potential anyways.

Reply to  RH
June 27, 2016 5:35 pm

Actually for them to have umteen hundred generations enough to differentiate shows quite a lot of potential! Just that the kinetic end of things worked against them, that and isolation, inability to spread to new habitat. Give ’em a few hundred thousand years and they might have developed webbed feet and been a mammal returned to the sea, like whales… only tiny. -just having fun- But I do think they had long term potential.

Reply to  RH
June 27, 2016 10:18 pm

Biodiversity is important as an intellectual resource, and on an isolated ecosystem as part of that whole ecosystem.
That value isn’t less because the species that have this unique set of genes and proteins that may hold the key to any number of technologies or medicines belong to a species that “probably didn’t have much future”.
Each species loss is permanent and reduces humanity’s scientific potential forever.

June 27, 2016 5:25 pm

I’ll copy a comment I made on another post on this issue as people might find it relevant:
This is life at the edge. A small patch of land appears, and gets quickly colonized by a few species. Through founder effect, genetic drift, and specific conditions they quickly diverge, but their life is precarious. If conditions become slightly worse the population is wiped out, and this is not a loss to the parent species. This is evolution in action, and has nothing to do with us.
On the other hand island endemic species are high risk. Of all the mammal and bird species gone extinct during civilized man watch, the great majority have been island species. And the main cause is invasive species. Despite this being our responsibility, we don’t seem to be too worried about the loss of these species. Perhaps because it is not due to climate change. If we discount these island species that we are losing, the idea of a mass extinction becomes silly.
Since 1500 we have lost 61 mammal species, 3 of them in continents and 58 in islands and Australia. And we have lost 129 bird species, 6 of them in continents and 123 in islands and Australia. Can you spot a pattern?
As a biologist I am concerned that instead of dedicating our efforts to the protection of wild populations and ecosystems all over the planet, as we have been doing in the developed world, we dedicate the money to fight a climate change that it is having surprisingly little effect on the biology and most of it positive.
Climate change has helped more UK species than it has harmed
Agricultural management and climatic change are the major drivers of biodiversity change in the UK
Burns, F. et al., 2016. PLoS ONE 11(3): e0151595
“Climatic change has had a wide range of impacts on species, with more species impacted positively than negatively in the short-term at least.
Climatic change accounted for the second largest percentage of impact, 14 [-6 ; +8], though its impact on species trends was more balanced between positive and negative, and thus was the largest positive impact.”

This was totally predictable. An increase in temperatures produces an increase in energy and water and together with an increase in CO2 produces more productive ecosystems. Some species might respond negatively to the changes, but most species will respond positively.
Anthropogenic effect on species is greatly negative, but not due to climate change.
“As we describe, the net impact of climatic change on UK species in our sample is positive, but it is not clear whether this will always be the case.”
Typical non-scientific bullshit. We find that the impact of climatic change is positive, but since we know it has to be negative, this has to change.

Reply to  Javier
June 27, 2016 10:25 pm

we dedicate the money to fight a climate change that it is having surprisingly little effect on the biology and most of it positive.

What evidence is there that most of the effect of climate change on “biology” is positive?

Reply to  Seth
June 28, 2016 2:17 am

On land ecosystems a warm planet is more productive than a cold planet. Periods of coal generation were warm periods in the past. With global warming we observe a greening of the Earth at essentially all latitudes and a significant improvement of conditions at high latitudes that manifests in an expansion of the tree line. The evidence is very ample. We know that conditions during glacial periods are much worse, when deserts expand and ice sheets expand, and most species survive in refuges. Warm is good and cold is bad.
As the study that I linked above demonstrated in the UK, a majority of species is reacting positively to global warming. This was to be expected. With growing seasons lengthening, the ecosystem becomes more productive. Plants grow more (we know that biological carbon sink is increasing significantly) and produce more seeds. There is more energy flowing through the ecosystem, more insects, birds produce more progeny and so do mammals as they have less problem to find food. Populations expand.
This is all basic physics and biology, but we have been conditioned to expect only bad things from global warming. The truth is that for 350 years global warming has been having a positive impact. While the benefits are multiple and real, the dangers remain an hypothesis.

Reply to  Seth
June 28, 2016 4:13 am

On land ecosystems a warm planet is more productive than a cold planet.

Productivity is one metric. Do you put any value on biodiversity?

We know that conditions during glacial periods are much worse, when deserts expand and ice sheets expand, and most species survive in refuges.

On the other hand there is less global biodiversity during warm greenhouse periods:
We found that global biodiversity (the richness of families and genera) is related to temperature and has been relatively low during warm ‘greenhouse’ phases, while during the same phases extinction and origination rates of taxonomic lineages have been relatively high.A long-term association between global temperature and biodiversity, origination and extinction in the fossil record

Warm is good and cold is bad.

And here you’re using productivity as the only metric of good and bad?

As the study that I linked above demonstrated in the UK, a majority of species is reacting positively to global warming.

What is the effect of that on extinctions?
It sounds like they’re seeing invaders from Europe show up as well.

This is all basic physics and biology, but we have been conditioned to expect only bad things from global warming.

What other fields of science have this effect? Or it is just global warming that conditions us to expect bad things?

Reply to  Seth
June 28, 2016 11:23 am

Let’s put value on biodiversity.
The link between biodiversity and climate has been very well known to biologists since Von Humboldt times in the early 1800’s. It is clear that you are not a biologist (I am), because you don’t know that biodiversity decreases both on land and sea with latitude. It is obvious (should be to you too) that productivity and biodiversity go hand in hand so the warmer tropical areas of the planet are both more productive and have a much higher biodiversity than colder areas. It is often said that tropics are both a museum and a cradle of biodiversity. We ourselves originated in the tropics.
There is no a priori reason why this spatial association between warmer climates and richer ecosystems should not hold true also temporally. However such temporal association between warmer climates of the past and biodiversity is a lot harder to prove due to the inherent difficulties of the fossil record.
So you found an article that defends the opposite, that warm climates reduce biodiversity. Good for you. I suppose you searched not based on a genuine interest in finding the truth, but in finding ammunition to defend your beliefs more probably based on political bias or AGW quasi religious faith than in scientific grounds.
However such a surprising result that contradicts not only basic biology since Von Humboldt, but also common biological sense that any watcher of nature documentaries can develop, should have made you a little suspicious. You could have found that the specialists in the field, like in this review:
Erwin, D. H. (2009). Climate as a driver of evolutionary change. Current Biology, 19(14), R575-R583.
reject those conclusions and affirm:
“Among the wide range of biotic hypotheses, those with the greatest empirical support indicate that warmer climates have provided the energetic foundation for increased biodiversity by fostering greater population size and thus increased extinction resistance; have increased metabolic scope; have allowed more species to exploit specialized niches as a result of greater available energy; and generated faster speciation and/or lower extinction rates. In combination with geologic evidence for carbon dioxide levels and changing areas of tropical seas, these observations provide the basis for a simple, first-order model of the relationship between climate through the Phanerozoic and evolutionary patterns and diversity. Such a model suggests that we should expect greatest marine diversity during globally warm intervals with dispersed continents, broad shelves and moderately extensive continental seas.”
And perhaps you would have saved yourself a little embarrassment by finding that the same authors from the paper you claim that warmer climates reduce biodiversity, published a later paper in which they retract from the previous paper conclusions.
Mayhew, P. J., Bell, M. A., Benton, T. G., & McGowan, A. J. (2012). Biodiversity tracks temperature over time. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(38), 15141-15145.
“The geographic distribution of life on Earth supports a general pattern of increase in biodiversity with increasing temperature. However, some previous analyses of the 540-million-year Phanerozoic fossil record found a contrary relationship, with paleodiversity declining when the planet warms. These contradictory findings are hard to reconcile theoretically. We analyze marine invertebrate biodiversity patterns for the Phanerozoic Eon while controlling for sampling effort. This control appears to reverse the temporal association between temperature and biodiversity, such that taxonomic richness increases, not decreases, with temperature. Increasing temperatures also predict extinction and origination rates, alongside other abiotic and biotic predictor variables. These results undermine previous reports of a negative biodiversity-temperature relationship through time, which we attribute to paleontological sampling biases.”
Oops! Kudos to them for coming forward saying they were wrong. And I wouldn’t expect less from you. Now if it is the case that biologists think that warmer climate means in general increased productivity, biodiversity, ecological niche exploitation, and extinction resilience, why on Earth we are being told the opposite every time through the media to the point that you assumed it was the truth? Is it possible that we are being lied? Would that be a first time?

June 27, 2016 5:30 pm

By the way I prefer the long format. I am not curious enough to click on the link, click the approval on the pdf plug-in and wait for it to load. I rather get the full thing in the page and decide if I read it all or just peruse some parts.

June 27, 2016 5:36 pm

The lumpers versus splitters problem is also found in plants, a good example being the ornamental and tea-making genus Camellia, whose several hundred species will usually interbreed when brought together to overcome current geographical separations.
Agree with the summary by Gary above on the various uses of “species”.

Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
June 27, 2016 6:23 pm

The lumpers versus splitters problem is also found in paleo anthropology. Some researches will make a species with any new hominin fossil found that is slightly different, so they can associate their name to the new species. Other researchers try hard to prune the hominin tree and keep only a few strong branches. The discussions in the literature are never ending and one needs a guide not to get lost with the different name uses.

June 27, 2016 6:15 pm

The question of how the rat got there reminds me of Tim Flannery’s explanation for the presence of the Peruvian fishing bat in New Zealand as discussed in his book “The Future Eaters”. In that case he proposed the idea that the Peruvian bats flew westwards against the prevailing trade winds to New Zealand.
Small problem. Did they island hop, because no evidence of these bats anywhere else on the Pacific islands?
How did they survive the long journey from Peru to NZ without intermediate resting spots between NZ and Peru?
Did they migrate as married pairs for breeding purposes or do the bats have also alphabet sexes in the society and thus could breed spontaneously once in NZ?

Reply to  Louis Hissink
June 27, 2016 6:28 pm

Correct me if wrong, but my impression is that New Zealand and South American bats are related but not the same species.
It appears that they spread to New Zealand while the Gondwanan continents were still closer together tens of millions of years ago. The situation is similar to the related marsupials of South America and Australia, connected via Antarctica, largely ice free before the Oligocene.

Reply to  Gabro
June 27, 2016 6:31 pm

Could be but I was simply mentioning Flannery’s explanation which seems as well founded as the official rat extinction explanation.

Reply to  Gabro
June 27, 2016 6:34 pm

My view is that, even with an allegedly different protein, I doubt that any unique genetic information has disappeared from our planet with the demise with a local rat race.

June 27, 2016 7:10 pm

Rob McCulloch wrote a brilliant comment in the Washington post. good on you Rob.
The BS gets even more absurd! Endemic species! Coast of Queensland! Great Barrier Reef! Anthropogenic climate change! These Alarmist’s will stop at nothing to tug on the heart strings of poor gullible people all around the world to prop up their frail crumbling agenda.
Bramble Cay is over 170klm due north of the designated Great Barrier Reef border.
It is actually in Papua New Guineas International Fishing Zone and only in around 30mts of water.
But get this! It’s only 27klm from the enormous shallow river delta of Papua New Guinea’s Fly River.
The Fly at 1,050 kilometers (650 mi), is the second longest river in Papua New Guinea, after the Sepik. The Fly is the largest river in Oceania, the largest in the world without a single dam in its catchment and overall ranks as the 25th-largest river in the world by volume of discharge.
The delta of the Fly River is over 100 km wide at its entrance but don’t trust me, check it out on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia just like this next paragraph.
“However, writing in Australian Geographic, Lauren Smith noted, “The authors of the report do note that there is a slight chance that there’s an as-yet-unknown population of the species in Papua New Guinea around the Fly River delta area, and that until that area is adequately surveyed, the Bramble Cay Melomys should have the tag ‘Possibly Extinct’ added to the IUCN Red listing.”
It is painfully obvious to any layman that these rats along with snakes and many other animals will get washed down from this wild river riding on all kinds of debris during the wet seasons. Even one stranded python could wipe out a whole marooned colony on an island this small in no time at all! What kind of silly science is this? WAKE UP!

June 27, 2016 7:29 pm

Apparently it is unacceptable for any species to ever be lost for any reason, ever. What a silly concept.

Reply to  Jeff Alberts
June 28, 2016 5:32 am

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David M. Lallatin
June 27, 2016 7:36 pm

“The alarm bells are ringing,” Obama told the assembly, which included heads of state from more than 120 countries. “We cannot pretend we do not hear them.”

June 28, 2016 12:11 am

From a different Government department some sensible comments..
If the species has become extinct it is a highly undesirable outcome. However 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 (DEHP 2013e).

June 28, 2016 12:46 am

Yeah? Well who cares? About 200 hundred species go extinct per day. No one seems to be paying attention to how many new species come into existence every day. Why is that?

Reply to  Bartleby
June 28, 2016 4:03 am

Could you list ten species going extinct last year? Name, place, and how we know they are extinct? With references of course.
I am very suspicious of claims about so many species per year, month, or day going extinct.
In fact, as this discussion has shown, we are not all in agreement about what constitutes a species.

Reply to  jarthuroriginal
June 28, 2016 4:22 am

Could you list ten species going extinct last year?

1) It takes longer than a year to be declared extinct.
The World Conservation Union used to have a rule that a species had to be not observed for 50 years. Now they will label a species extinct if “there is no reasonable doubt that the last individual has died.”
In any case there’s no knowing which year they went extinct.
2) The vast majority or species are not described.
All those eukaryotes you see and recognise? They’re only the wildly successful ones. The average range for a species is about 50 miles.

Reply to  jarthuroriginal
June 28, 2016 5:27 am

This won’t answer your question…

Global Extinction Rates: Why
Do Estimates Vary So Wildly?

Is it 150 species a day or 24 a day or far less than that? Prominent scientists cite dramatically different numbers when estimating the rate at which species are going extinct. Why is that?
by Fred Pearce
Most ecologists believe that we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction. Humanity’s impact on nature, they say, is now comparable to the five previous catastrophic events over the past 600 million years, during which up to 95 percent of the planet’s species disappeared. We may very well be. But recent studies have cited extinction rates that are extremely fuzzy and vary wildly.
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, which involved more than a thousand experts, estimated an extinction rate that was later calculated at up to 8,700 species a year, or 24 a day. More recently, scientists at the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity concluded that: “Every day, up to 150 species are lost.” That could be as much as 10 percent a decade.
But nobody knows whether such estimates are anywhere close to reality. They are based on computer modeling, and documented losses are tiny by comparison. Only about 800 extinctions have been documented in the past 400 years, according to data held by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Out of some 1.9 million recorded current or recent species on the planet, that represents less than a tenth of one percent.
Nor is there much documented evidence of accelerating loss. In its latest update, released in June, the IUCN reported “no new extinctions,” although last year it reported the loss of an earwig on the island of St. Helena and a Malaysian snail. And some species once thought extinct have turned out to be still around, like the Guadalupe fur seal, which “died out” a century ago, but now numbers over 20,000.
Moreover, the majority of documented extinctions have been on small islands, where species with small gene pools have usually succumbed to human hunters. That may be an ecological tragedy for the islands concerned, but most species live in continental areas and, ecologists agree, are unlikely to prove so vulnerable.

We lose 8,700 species per year while, on the other hand, we gain about 15,000 species per year…

Luckily, even after 250 years of professionals documenting thousands of new plants and animals every year, the rate at which new species are discovered remains relatively stable. Somewhere between 15,000 and 18,000 new species are identified each year, with about half of those being insects. However, that number is somewhat misleading: it also includes the correction of taxonomic mistakes, movements from one family to another, and decisions that will end up being overruled in years to come.

The problem is two-fold:
1. The word “species” lacks a rigorous definition.
2. Extinctions in the fossil record are generally measured at the genus, or higher, taxonomic level.
This enables pseudo-scientists (ecologists) to babble that “that we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction.” When was the last time a genus went extinct? 75 years ago (if the hirola are still kicking). How often do genera go extinct? Not very often. How many genera are endangered?

You’re looking at three of the last known hirola on Earth. Since the 1970s, unregulated hunting, habitat destruction and drought linked to climate change have driven the number of these large African antelopes living in Kenya and Somalia from over 14,000 to fewer than 400.
But these hirola are not only among the last of their species, they’re among the last of an entire genus — the taxonomic rank above species and below family. (As a point of reference, if the genus Canis were to go extinct, it would mean the disappearance of the planet’s dogs, wolves, coyotes, jackals, and numerous other species.)
If the critically endangered hirola cannot be saved, it will be the first time the Earth has lost an entire genus of mammal in three-quarters of a century. (The death of the last known Tasmanian tiger in 1936 spelled not only the end of the genus Thylacinus, but the family Thylacinidae, as well.)

Even if the hirola snuff it, the world will still have lots of antelopes.

June 28, 2016 1:57 am

They may not even be extinct, and it may not be due to ‘climate change’.
I dug this up from the actual published paper, within about 10 minutes of reading:
Apparently domestic dogs eat them, which 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 even 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.

June 28, 2016 5:51 am

Physically and genetically the nearest relative to the late Bramble Cay melomys is the Cape York melomys. The genetic differences were negligible: “… it had some protein differences and a coarser tail caused by elevated scales.” I could find no reference on any effort to cross-breed the two ‘species’. The loss of ‘genetic diversity’ seems trivial. The Bramble Cay melomys was likely isolated from the Cape York melomys population by rising seas at the end of the last Ice Age.
The Cape York melomys is identified on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as ‘least concern,’ meaning it is quite abundant. It would seem only the geographical isolation justified identifying it as a separate species. In humans the differences between any two ‘races’ are far greater, yet we are still all one species.

June 28, 2016 7:05 am

Here’s the one image of the cay I find linked by it on Google Earth :

Jeff in Calgary
Reply to  Kip Hansen
June 28, 2016 8:30 am

“research vessel”, aka luxury yacht. Based on my limited knowledge, $1.5 million for the yacht on the right. I’ve always wanted a power yacht; I guess I should have been a researcher rather than an engineer.

Mark Lee
June 28, 2016 8:15 am

Who cares?

Alan Robertson
June 28, 2016 3:14 pm

The moving finger wrote down
This saddish thing to wit
You’ll never taste a Dodo
Wot’s roasted on a spit

June 29, 2016 5:29 am

I wouldn’t be surprised if it is an undescribed species from PNG, as suggested above by “thingodonta”. Bramble Cay is much closer to PNG than the Australian mainland. and possibly arrived by flotsam down the Fly River.

June 30, 2016 11:18 am

The most interesting question is: why did the Bramble Cay Melomys only exist on Bramble Cay? Until about 10,000 years ago Australia and New Guinea was a single landmass and Bramble Cay was just a nondescript spot on the Carpentarian plain. The species certainly didn’t evolve on Bramble Cay, speciation isn’t that fast. So presumably the species once had a wider distribution (unless it is a case of taxonomic oversplitting, and the population on Bramble Cay really belonged in another species, like capensis or cervinipes.
There are a number of somewhat similar cases where small mammals have gone extinct on the Australian mainland, but still exist on offshore islands, and the explanation is well known: introduced predators (cats, rats, dogs, foxes…).
However the nearest mainland in this case is New Guinea, which has suffered much less from introduced predators, so personally I am far from convinced that Melomys rubicola is really extinct. It may well still exist somewhere in the Trans-Fly which is a huge area of dry eucalypt woodland, which is not at all well explored biologically. The Fly River Delta that is mentioned is rather less likely since it is hardly suitable Melomys habitat.
On average more than one new species of mammal is discovered per year in New Guinea, most considerably larger than Melomys

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