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Climate change claims its first mammal

December 5, 2008
by

possumAccording to researchers in Queensland, Australia, the white lemuroid possum has gone extinct – the first mammal victim of climate change. The creature (Hemibelideus lemuroids)  lived in the high altitude (above 1000m) cloud forest of the Daintree in northern Queensland, but hasn’t been seen in 3 years – since the temperature in the region rose 0.5 degrees.

As temperatures rise due to climate change, many species are migrating to higher altitudes or to coastal areas in search of cooler conditions. But mountain dwelling animals are especially vulnerable; they have nowhere to go as the temperatures heat up. Higher up the mountains, trees becomes sparse and the poorer soils hinder vegetation. This makes it more difficult for animals to find food and shelter. Large numbers of indigenous mammals in Australia and Papua New Guinea are expected to go extinct over the coming decades for this reason, including one of my favourites: the tree kangeroo.

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