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Sunday, 11 January 2015

Extinct Animals

The aurochs were wild oxes with large pointing horns. The last individual auroch was killed by a poacher in 1627 on a reserve near Warsaw, Poland.

The red rail found only on Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. A little larger than a chicken, it had reddish, hairlike plumage, dark legs, and a long, curved beak. The wings were small; rail species often became flightless when adapting to isolated islands, free of mammalian predators. The last mention of a red rail sighting is from 1693. The species is thought to have been hunted to extinction around 1700 by introduced species and also by humans, who took advantage of red rails' attraction to red colored cloth to lure them and beat them with sticks.

1868 illustration of a red rail
At up to thirty feet long, the Steller's sea cow was one of the largest mammals to have ever lived. It was famous among sailors because its meat was reportedly delicious and lasted for months without spoiling. Within twenty seven years of its discovery in 1741, it was hunted to extinction.

Until the 1790s. authorities believed that fossils found in Europe of animals such as the woolly rhinoceros and the mammoth were remains of animals still living in the tropics (i.e. rhinoceros and elephants), which had shifted out of Europe and Asia as the earth became cooler..

Extinction only started being accepted as a fact after Georges Cuvier, the father of paleontology, performed a pioneering research study in the late 1790s on some elephant fossils excavated around Paris. The results disproved the old theory that it was impossible for species to go extinct because God wouldn't wipe out a species he spent time creating for his Divine Plan.

Authorities believed that fossils found in Europe of animals such as the woolly rhinoceros and the mammoth were remains of animals still living in the tropics (i.e. rhinoceros and elephants), which had shifted out of Europe and Asia as the earth became cooler..

The bluebuck or blue antelope is an extinct species of antelope that lived in South Africa until around 1800. The first published mention of the bluebuck is from 1681. Hunted by European settlers, it was the first large African mammal historically recorded to have become extinct.

The great auk, a flightless swimming bird, nested only on a few small islands in the North Atlantic Ocean. The last two confirmed specimens were killed off the coast of Iceland on July 3, 1844.

A stuffed great auk and replica egg in Kelvingrove, Glasgow. By Mike Pennington, Wikipedia Commons

The last known quagga, a subspecies of the plains zebra, died at the Artis Magistra zoo in Amsterdam on August 12, 1883.

In the 1890s a cat named Tibbles started bringing dead birds to a lighthouse that were discovered to be a new species, the Stephens Island wren. They went extinct shortly after and Tibbles the cat was accused of being the only single living creature to eradicate a species.

The huia was the largest species of New Zealand wattlebird, endemic to the North Island of New Zealand. Its extinction in the early 20th century had two primary causes. The first was the widespread deforestation of the lowlands of the North Island by European settlers to create pasture for agriculture. The second major cause of extinction was was rampant overhunting as due to its pronounced sexual dimorphism and its beauty, huia were sought after as mounted specimens by wealthy collectors in Europe, and by museums all over the world. The last confirmed sighting of the extinct huia took place on December 28, 1907 when W. W. Smith saw three birds in the forests of the Tararua Ranges, North Island, New Zealand.

Illustration of two birds on a tree branch

The huia bird's call was never recorded, but it exists today because an elderly Maori man imitated in 1949 from memories of his childhood.

The last passenger pigeon died in captivity in the Cincinnati Zoo on September 1, 1914. She was named Martha, after George Washington’s wife.

Martha in 2015. By Ph0705 -Wikipedia Commons

During conservation efforts to save the critically endangered toolache wallaby in the early 1920s, ten of the last surviving members of the species were accidentally killed during efforts to capture them for a breeding program. The species is now extinct.

The Thylacine was the largest known carnivorous marsupial of modern times. It was commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger (because of its striped lower back) or the Tasmanian wolf and was native to continental Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea. The last known specimen, known as Benjamin, died in Hobart Zoo during the night of September 7, 1936.

1921 photo by Henry Burrell of a thylacine with a chicken 

 It was generally believed that coelacanths had been extinct for around 70 million years before one was found in the sea off South Africa in 1938.

The population of the baiji, a freshwater dolphin found only in the Yangtze River in China declined drastically through the 20th century as China industrialized and made heavy use of the river for fishing, transportation, and hydroelectricity. It was announced as functionally extinct on December 13, 2006 by leaders of the Yangtze Freshwater Dolphin Expedition. The baiji's extinction was the first recorded extinction of a well-studied cetacean species to be directly attributable to human influence.

The last Kauaʻi ʻōʻō was male. Its song was recorded in 1987 in which it sung a mating call to a female that would never come. It died in 1987 as well.

The Pyrenean ibex was a wild goat species endemic to the Iberian Peninsula. In January 2000, the Pyrenean ibex became extinct, but three years later scientists brought a clone to life, making the Pyrenean ibex the first species to become de-extinct. The clone died after seven minutes, also making it the first species to go extinct twice.

In 2008, DNA was successfully implanted into another organism from an extinct species for the first ever time. Genetic material from a Tasmanian tiger was inserted into mouse embryos where it played a role in developing cartilage and bone.

The last Poʻouli (Black-faced honeycreeper) died of avian malaria in the Maui Bird Conservation Center in Olinda, Hawaii on November 26, 2008, before it could breed, making the species in all probability extinct.

The Poʻo-uli Photos credit: Paul E. Baker/USFWS (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

99% of all the species that have ever lived are now extinct.

Ninety percent of all species that have become extinct have been birds.

Cats are thought to be primarily responsible for the extinction of 33 species of birds. 

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