Melomys rubicola 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Rodentia Muridae

Scientific Name: Melomys rubicola Thomas, 1924
Common Name(s):
English Bramble Cay Melomys, Bramble Cay Mosaic-tailed Rat

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Extinct ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2015-05-28
Assessor(s): Woinarski, J. & Burbidge, A.A.
Reviewer(s): Amori, G.
Contributor(s): Miley, D., Dickman, C., Menzies, J., Leary, T., Thomson, B. & Leung, L.
Limited monitoring indicated decline since 1983 on its only known site, Bramble Cay a small coral cay in Torres Strait, Australia. Last individual was recorded in 2009. Limited searching over the period 2009 to 2013 failed to report it, but zero records in a comprehensive and adequate targeted search in 2014 demonstrated extinction (Woinarski et al. 2014, N. Waller pers. comm. 2015).
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species was endemic to Bramble Cay, a small (5 ha) coral cay in Torres Strait, Australia (Latch 2008, Dennis 2012, Woinarski et al. 2014). It has not been located on other islands despite intensive surveys (Latch 2008). It has been hypothesised that the species or a close relative may still exist in New Guinea (Gynther et al. 2016). It is no longer extant.
Countries occurrence:
Regionally extinct:
Australia (Queensland)
Additional data:
Estimated area of occupancy (AOO) - km2:0Continuing decline in area of occupancy (AOO):No
Extreme fluctuations in area of occupancy (AOO):NoEstimated extent of occurrence (EOO) - km2:0
Continuing decline in extent of occurrence (EOO):NoExtreme fluctuations in extent of occurrence (EOO):No
Number of Locations:0Continuing decline in number of locations:No
Extreme fluctuations in the number of locations:No
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:Limpus et al. (1983) estimated the total population size in 1978 as ‘several hundred individuals’. In 1998, the population size was estimated as about 90 individuals, based on 42 captures (Dennis and Storch 1998); subsequent trapping studies using the same methodology in 2002 and 2004 yielded only 10 and 12 individuals (Dennis 2012). The last individual was reported in 2009 (N. Waller pers. comm. 2015). Limited searches since 2009 failed to record the species; a more substantial and comprehensive search of the small island in 2014 (with 150 Elliott traps and 10 baited camera traps set for six nights) was unsuccessful, and also reported that almost all vegetation had been lost from the cay (N. Waller pers. comm. 2015).
Additional data:
Continuing decline of mature individuals:Yes
Extreme fluctuations:NoPopulation severely fragmented:No
No. of subpopulations:0Continuing decline in subpopulations:Yes
Extreme fluctuations in subpopulations:NoAll individuals in one subpopulation:Yes

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Melomys rubicola was nocturnal. It lived amongst the vegetation on the cay and used burrows as refuges (Latch 2008, Dennis 2012). It was restricted to the 5 ha Bramble Cay, but the vegetation cover (and hence food resources) on this island declined to almost complete absence by 2014 (Woinarski et al. 2014).
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:Yes
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): This species was never subject to detailed study. The first substantial report on its status in 1983 considered that its population was at least several hundred individuals (Limpus et al. 1983). It declined either gradually or episodically subsequently, although there were few and not very robust estimates of its status. It is likely that decline occurred due directly to storm surges across the entire island (killing individuals) and/or ongoing and episodic reduction in vegetation (probably also due to storm surge) (Woinarski et al. 2014).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The Bramble Cay Melomys is now extinct. Although a draft recovery plan included the action 'develop a captive breeding and reintroduction proposal if needed and identify possible new introduction site/s' (Leary et al. 2008), this action was deleted in the final approved Recovery Plan (Latch 2008), and the main opportunity to prevent extinction was accordingly lost. The approved recovery plan instead included a range of actions that were either not implemented or were insufficient to prevent extinction.

Classifications [top]

3. Shrubland -> 3.6. Shrubland - Subtropical/Tropical Moist
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
3. Species management -> 3.2. Species recovery

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Action Recovery plan:Yes
  Systematic monitoring scheme:No
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Conservation sites identified:No
  Occur in at least one PA:No
  Invasive species control or prevention:Not Applicable
In-Place Species Management
  Successfully reintroduced or introduced beningly:No
  Subject to ex-situ conservation:No
In-Place Education
  Subject to recent education and awareness programmes:No
11. Climate change & severe weather -> 11.4. Storms & flooding
♦ timing:Past, Unlikely to Return ♦ scope:Whole (>90%) ♦ severity:Very Rapid Declines ⇒ Impact score:Past Impact 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

Bibliography [top]

Dennis, A. 2012. Bramble Cay melomys Melomys rubicola. In: L.K. Curtis, A J. Dennis, K.R. McDonald, P.M. Kyne and S.J.S. Debus (eds), Queensland’s Threatened Animals, pp. 398-399. CSIRO Publishing, CSIRO Publishing.

Dennis, A., and Storch, D. 1998. Conservation and taxonomic status of the Bramble Cay melomys, Melomys rubicola. Report to Environment Australia. Queensland Department of Environment, Brisbane.

Gynther, I., Waller, N. and Leung, L.K.-P. 2016. Confirmation of the extinction of the Bramble Cay melomys Melomys rubicola on Bramble Cay, Torres Strait: results and conclusions from a comprehensive survey in August–September 2014. Unpublished report to the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection, Queensland Government. Brisbane.

IUCN. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-2. Available at: (Accessed: 04 September 2016).

Latch, P. 2008. Recovery plan for the Bramble Cay Melomys Melomys rubicola. Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane.

Leary, T., Singadan, R., Menzies, J., Wright, D., and Thomson, B. 2008. Melomys rubicola. In 'The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species'. Version 2011.2. Available at: (Accessed: 26 April 2012).

Limpus, C. J., Parmenter, C. J., and Watts, C. H. S. 1983. Melomys rubicola, an endangered murid rodent endemic to the Great Barrier Reef of Queensland. Australian Mammalogy 6: 77-79.

Woinarski, J.C.Z., Burbidge, A.A. and Harrison, P.L. 2014. The Action Plan for Australian Mammals 2012. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood.

Citation: Woinarski, J. & Burbidge, A.A. 2016. Melomys rubicola. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T13132A97448475. . Downloaded on 17 August 2018.
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