Dead Rat Shock

From the BBC

Climate change-ravaged rodent listed as extinct

It was described in 2016 as the first mammalian extinction caused by human-induced climate change. Now the eradication of the Bramble Cay melomys has been officially recognised by Australia, its only known home. The rodent lived solely on a tiny sand island in the Torres Strait, near the coast of Papua New Guinea. The species has not been seen since 2009. Scientists say there is a chance that an identical or similar species could yet be discovered in Papua New Guinea…

A state government report said it was almost certainly caused by “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”. It added: “Significantly, this probably represents the first recorded mammalian extinction due to anthropogenic climate change.”

Luckily, a BBC wildlife camera crew was on hand to record the tragedy. They watched aghast as the water crept up on the little blighters while they paddled innocently on this 5 hectare sandbank. At three millimetres a year, they stood no chance, and the direct mortality of individuals was the inevitable result.

Just don’t tell Greta.


  1. This elegy to a dead rat – not forgetting the tantalising possibility of something not far short of resurrection in the valleys of Papua New Guinea – is perhaps the most moving thing I’ve read on Cliscep.


  2. Just as this story has been resurrected, so might dem little rat blighters.


  3. Right, so let’s add it all up. So far, the man-made climate change sixth mass extinction has eradicated:

    1. A central American toad (medium confidence)
    2. A central American frog (medium confidence)
    3. A cute little Australian brown rat (presumably high confidence)

    Let me know if I missed any out. As climate change is predicted to wipe out half of the estimated 8.7 million species of plant and animal on planet Earth, that leaves just 4,349,997 species to go. We’re about a quarter of the way to really catastrophic (4C) warming. The first 1C has done for three critters. I’m assuming the next 1C will be somewhat more effective in eliminating the planet’s wildlife.


  4. John Ray, at Greenie Watch has not been convinced by this heart-wrenching drama:

    ‘This is an old fraud. What is not mentioned below is that Melomys exists in their tens of thousands in neighboring areas — both on islands and on the coast. And I have not seen even the slightest attempt to show that the Melomys on Bramble Cay is in any way unique. As far as we know it is essentially identical with the Melomys in neigboring locations. So when the say that the Bramble Cay melomys is extinct, it is just a slimy way of saying that Melomys is extinct on Bramble Cay, which of zero importance.

    The most probable reason for the extinction is clear enough. the cay is a sand island and some big storms in recent years have washed a lot of sand away, taking the vegetation with it. So there is not now enough vegetation to support even a rat. Any connection to global warming is mere speculation

    And the cay is only 34 miles South of New Guinea and New Guineans would undoubtedly eat them. Melanesians are poor but are excellent sailors. They normally have very little animal protein in their diet. There are no grazing animals in New Guinea. They were probably all hunted to extinction thousands of years ago. So now all they have is their pigs and an occasional bird. And they can’t feed enough pigs to slaughter one very often. So a Melomys would be a treat.

    Also, In the past visitors to the island used to shoot them for sport. So how do we know that someone did not do that recently? It’s an isolated area with no record of comings and goings

    And if inundations were the cause, how do we know that global warming caused them? Sea levels have been rising steadily ever since the Little Ice Age.

    And if the factor was more extreme weather events in the area concerned there is no way global warming can be responsible because extreme weather events have in fact be declining on average world wide. And even the IPCC declined to make a link between warming and extreme weather

    And there have been many instances of species being declared extinct only for specimens suddenly to pop up again. This is just opportunistic propaganda.’

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Jaime
    Extinction of rare species is actually something I could care about a lot, if it wasn’t for the company I’d be in. The disappearance of the Guatemalan golden toad seems to me a big shame, like the destruction of a rare work of art, e.g. the possible loss of the reliquary containing St Timothy’s prepuce in the fire at Windsor Castle (h/t the late Brian Sewell.)

    I’ve looked into the subject a few times, once in an article at WUWT in about 2012. The regular contributor there who lives in Fiji (name please anyone?) wrote a tremendous comment about the UN Red List. Apparently known species that have gone extinct in historical times are numbered in dozens, mostly in the 17th to 19th centuries, and almost always on islands. It’s exploration, stupid, and limited habitat.

    Toads die when their pond dries up. If they live in a thousand different ponds, they’ll survive even if 90% dry up. There are dozens of reasons one can think of why ponds might be disappearing in, say, Guatemala, which are all to do with improving the life of the Guatemalans and nothing to do with climate change.

    A couple of extinction alerts sent me off on a google search on my old blog; a Brazilian monkey had seen its population increase from two thousand to twenty thousand due to nature reserves, and a blue parrot in the Amazon hasn’t been certainly seen since the 19th century. It only ever lived in a certain tree in a 100 yard wide band of riverside, so its chances were never going to be good, were they?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. John:

    And if inundations were the cause, how do we know that global warming caused them? Sea levels have been rising steadily ever since the Little Ice Age.

    Sorry to do this to you but it’s longer than the small period since the LIA:

    which led to this rather alarmist-lite addendum

    The poor Great Barrier Reef, when we finally achieve a return to that climate normalcy called a real ice age.


  7. Richard, I was merely the messenger! But Ray’s point about sea levels rising since the Little Ice Age does not, strictly, exclude the possibility that they had been rising earlier as well.


  8. John: I’d neglected the fact it was within the quote, my apologies for that. But what Steve was responding to yesterday was typical context-less graphology from an alarmitron and when I saw it a few moments after reading your comment I was triggered! The whole of Ray’s critique certainly gives good reason not to shed too many real tears in the Bramble Cay rat’s direction. (And I agree with Geoff on real extinctions being worth some care. That’s the problem with this soggy state of affairs.)


  9. Sea level fluctuation is all a matter of perspective. In the early Holocene, sea levels rose very rapidly and by hundreds of meters. During the rest of the Holocene, sea level has remained remarkably stable (rather like the climate). Of course, SL goes up and down as the world experiences minor fluctuations in climate and yes, it’s been steadily rising since the LIA.

    In the long term though, we should be worrying more about falling sea levels – they’ve dropped catastrophically since the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Sorry but in parts of the Indian Ocean (Maldives, Western Australian coastline) and adjacent regions (parts of NewZealand) there is good evidence for a several metre fall of relative sea level in the Late Holocene. This is likely to have affected parts of the Queensland coast. A particular form of coral, indicative of sealevel fall occurs over parts of the Great Barrier Reef. So even gradual immersion of little Rattie may not have been possible.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. The Bramble Cay melomys are very likely a sub-species. It reminded me of another sub-species that was classified just a few years ago – the Orkney Vole. This is a sub-species of the Common Vole found around Belgium, but not on mainland Britain. It came from Europe about 5100 years ago, so the vole must hitched a ride on a boat – likely a canoe from a tree trunk.
    The interesting part is that the Orkney Vole has evolved, whereas the European Vole has not. The researchers believe that island sub-species can evolve over relatively short time-scales. If Bramble Cay is a low-lying sand island, then it could be just a few millennia old.
    The article also states

    More surprisingly, our results suggest that a recent and widespread cytb replacement event in the continental source area purged cytb variation there, whereas the ancestral diversity is largely retained in the colonized islands as a genetic ‘ark’. The replacement event in the continental M. arvalis was probably triggered by anthropogenic causes (land‐use change).

    Human activity could be stopping evolution. Maybe we should not be worried about the disappearance of a sub-species, but the lack of evidence of new sub-species emerging?

    Photo from a 2013 BBC article on the above article.


  12. Just as one sub-species is “lost” a species thought to be extinct is found. A female specimen of Chelonoidis phantasticus, a large turtle species has been found on the Galapagos Island of Fernandina. It was last sighted in 1906, and thought to have been made extinct by volcanic eruptions.

    “Including the Chelonoidis phantasticus, there are 12 species of Galapagos tortoise, one for each of the major islands of the Galapagos archipelago”

    The Galapagos Islands is the best example where species cut-off on islands can evolve into new species. With the immense numbers of species and sub-species, many with very few examples, it is worth remembering the difference between what we humans perceive and what is actually there.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Don’t forget that a 2° temperature rise will eradicate the majority of all corals in the world, so IPCC tells us…
    But why did they survive the PETM?


  14. And after the giant tortoise (not a turtle, Mr. Manic Bean) the giant bee.

    Suddenly, rediscovered unextinct species are getting bigger. Could it be because of climate change?

    My first reaction was: if the biggest species in its genus can get mislaid on a tiny island, the ecologists can’t have been trying very hard.

    “What ever happened to the Giant Slapper of British West Hartlepool?”

    “Dunno. Hasn’t been seen since Alfred Wallace stopped off there for a quick selfie with the natives. Bung it on the Red List.”

    Second reaction: just as well that there are still some isolated islands where nobody goes. If Richard Branson had bought this little island in the Moluccas, it would have been sprayed with DDT before being turned into a an ecological paradise for him and his mates.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. They don’t even know how many species there are in the world and new ones appear all the time, as well as old ones being rediscovered. Animals and insects are not allowed to move house. If they have been studied in a particular place for several years and for whatever reason decide to move, suddenly they become extinct.

    The missing bee species had been squatting in a termite nest,

    “After several days of searching termite mounds in the heavy heat of the tropical island forests, a group of North American and Australian entomologists found a hole big and round enough to have been made by a very large bee.

    “The structure was just too perfect and similar to what we expected to find. I climbed up next and my headlamp glinted on the most remarkable thing I’d ever laid my eyes on,” Clay Bolt, a wildlife photographer who helped document the search, wrote in a blog post. “I simply couldn’t believe it: We had rediscovered Wallace’s Giant Bee.”

    It’s puzzling that after it had been declared “extinct” for 38 years they started looking for it in termite nests and found it.

    “We know that putting the news out about this rediscovery could seem like a big risk given the demand, but the reality is that unscrupulous collectors already know that the bee is out there,” Robin Moore, a conservation biologist with Global Wildlife Conservation, which funded the expedition, told the Guardian.

    Last year, a Wallace’s giant bee specimen sold for more than $9,000 on BeeBay.”

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Joanne Nova had a look at this also:

    “The rat’s demise was known in 2016, but it’s re-demise is hitting the news again. It’s a zombie extinction on the second run because an Australian Minister mentioned in one line of a press release that it was now formally and officially “Extinct”. Seven other mammallian critters were apparently rescued from death row in the same press release.”

    She points out that Roger Andrews at Euan Mearns site examined the evidence when it went extinct the first time:

    Roger sadly passed away earlier this month. This is from his 2016 post:

    “This post briefly reviews the demise of the Bramble Cay melomys, a rat-like mammal that is no longer to be found on Bramble Cay, a tiny coral atoll between Australia and Papua-New Guinea and the animal’s only known habitat.

    The acknowledged cause of the extinction – which appears in this case to be real – was a series of storm surges that inundated Bramble Cay and killed off the vegetation.

    For years now CAGW proponents have been relentlessly searching for an example of a species that has incontrovertibly been driven extinct by man-made climate change, but so far without success. Discredited examples have included the Harlequin Frog and the Golden Toad in Costa Rica, the European Land Leech in Europe, the White Possum in Queensland and the Aldabra banded snail (discussed earlier in this post), which after being declared extinct in a Royal Society paper was later found alive and well in a different part of Aldabra Atoll. (The RS nevertheless refused to withdraw the paper).”

    “As the Guardian puts it:

    Farewell, Bramble Cay melomys. We killed you and you will be remembered as the first mammalian extinction caused directly by climate change: wiped off the planet by rising seas ….. It is the beginning of a new wave of loss and we need to start to prepare ourselves for the grief that will inevitably follow.”

    The demise of Melomys rubicola had nothing to do with temperature, rainfall or sea level rise. The animal was a victim of storm surges that progressively destroyed its habitat. No evidence – not even a climate model – is presented to support the claim that these storm surges had anything to do with increasing atmospheric CO2.

    Yet in its press release [in 2016] the University of Queensland has no compunction in confirming that the extinction was a result of man-made climate change:

    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.”

    Can rats have groundhog days?

    Liked by 1 person

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