Did you know?
Everyday, it seems more species are going extinct. Scientists say we are in the middle of the sixth mass extinction known as the Holocene Extinction. There have been five previous mass extinctions caused by events such as comets and volcanic eruption. Unfortunately, humans are the cause of the present mass extinction through some of our activities such as agriculture and mining which leads to habitat destruction, pollution, hunting etc. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that more than 32,000 species are threatened with extinction, including 41% amphibians, 26% mammals, 34% conifers, 14% birds, 30% sharks and rays, 33% reef corals and 28% selected crustaceans. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species. The list divides species into nine categories:
- Not Evaluated
- Data Deficient
- Least Concern
- Near Threatened
- Critically Endangered
- Extinct in the wild
Top 10 extinct animals
Here are some animals that have become extinct from our earth:
1. The Woolly Mammoth:
Do you remember Manny the Mammoth from the Ice Age movie Franchise? Well Manny is based on an actual species that lived about 20,000 years ago on the steppes of eastern Eurasia and North America although their ancestors migrated out of Africa 3.5 million years ago. The woolly mammoth was closely related to the Asian elephants. They grew up to 13 feet (4 meters tall) and weighed around 6 tons according to IUCN. Unlike modern elephants, they grew thick fur all over their body, smaller ears which helped it retain body heat in the arctic environment they lived in and large, curved tusks. Sadly, Manny and his relatives went extinct around 10,000 years ago probably because of changes in the arctic environment and hunting by humans. Fortunately, they are planning to de-extinct the species.
2. The Dodo (Mauritius):
Another extinct animal depicted on TV. Remember the ‘Penguins of Madagascar’ episode ‘Edangerous’ where the penguins attempted to de-extinct a penguin species but ended up bringing back the dodo instead. The dodo was a flightless bird chubby bird that lived on the Island of Mauritius. It is said that the arrival of Dutch sailors on the island in the 17th century caused the extinction of these birds. One, they hunted the birds for food and the animals they brought with them to the island ate the dodo’s egg. The last dodos died out in the 1680s.
3. The Giant Ground Sloth:
Another Ice Age character; Sid. Sid’s specie; the giant ground sloth (Megatheriidae family), were a group of species which roamed from Cape Horn to the Arctic Circle and were related to the modern tree sloths. These animals grew up to 20 feet, weighed about 4 tons and had huge claws. Despite their large size, they were herbivores.
4. Passenger Pigeon:
The passenger pigeon was considered one of the most social birds in North American history. At the beginning of the 19th century, the passenger pigeon population was about 5 billion. However, by the 1900s, the passenger pigeon had become extinct in the wild as a result of habitat destruction by deforestation and hunting. The last known passenger pigeon died in a zoo in Cincinnati in 1914. There also plans to bring back the passenger pigeon from extinction.
5. Thylacine (Thylacinus cynophalus):
Also known as the Tasmanian tiger was a large carnivorous marsupial native to Tasmania, Australia and New Guinea. The Tasmanian tiger has no relation to the tiger and is called a tiger because of the stripes on its body. It grew to about 2 feet long and weighed 30kg. They were hunted to extinction because they preyed on livestock. Habitat destruction and disease may also be a factor in their extinction. The last Tasmanian tiger died in Hobart Zoo, Tasmania in 1936.
6. Gastric Brooding Frog:
The Gastric Brooding Frog (Rheobatrachus silus) was a species of frog found in rocky creek beds, adjacent pools, and rock pools in the Australian rainforest. The frog was discovered in 1972 but came to limelight when its mode of reproduction was discovered. The female frog swallows its fertilized eggs and stops producing hydrochloric acid in her stomach to avoid digesting her young. She also stops eating for the six to seven weeks it takes the eggs to hatch and grow. She gives birth to fully formed froglets by “propulsive vomiting”. The frogs became extinct in the wild in 1979 or 1981. The last individual of the species died in 1983 in captivity. It is suspected that introduction of pathogenic fungi in their environment was the cause of their extinction. Scientists are working to bring back the species by cloning.
7.Baiji White Dolphin:
The almost blind Baiji White Dolphin also known as the Yangtze River dolphins can only be found in the Yangtze River in China. They grew to about 8 feet long and weighed up to a quarter of a ton. Overfishing, pollution, and collisions with ships caused the decline in the number of these animals. However, although they are not officially extinct, the Baiji has not been seen since 2002 0r 2004 depending on accounts.
The Quagga was a subspecies of the Zebra. It was native to South Africa. The Quagga looked like a mashup between a zebra and a horse. It was striped in the front part of its body like a zebra and plain like a horse at the back. The Quagga was hunted to extinction in the 19th century.
9. Stellers Sea Cow:
It was named after George W. Steller, a German naturalist who discovered the animal in 1741. It was related to Manatees and Dugongs. They grew up to 10m long and weighed around 8-10 tons. Despite its enormous size, the Stellers sea cow was a herbivore feeding on seagrass, kelp and algae. They went extinct just 27 years after its discovery after being hunted to extinction by sailors.
10. Great Auk:
They were flightless birds that lived on the Rocky Islands off the North Atlantic Coast. It had an average height of 75-85cm and weighed about 5kg.they were hunted for its meat, feathers and oils. The last of these birds died in 1844.
There are rising fears that even greater population of our wildlife will go into extinction before 2080. What are we going to tell our great grandchildren? Governments, organizations and individuals should understand the daily increasing threats of extinction facing our biodiversity and assign a high priority to conservation of biodiversity, especially threatened species.