The Earth teems with millions of creatures. There were many more before, but evolution has rendered them extinct. Many remarkable animals have vanished without a trace. There are many reasons for entire species disappearing other than poaching. We introduce you to a few extinct species that you may not have heard of before.
What Causes Animals to Disappear?
The variety of flora and fauna that exists on our lands and in our oceans seems paltry when compared with the ecosystems of the past. A whopping 99% of animal species have become extinct, and here’s why.
1. Asteroid Strikes
Animal species, first of all, have succumbed to the might of the asteroid. We know that one, which struck the Yucatan Peninsula 65 million years ago, was responsible for wiping dinosaurs off the face of the Earth.
The wider-reaching Permian-Triassic Extinction, which occurred 185 million years earlier, eradicated almost all life from the planet. The hardest hit were marine invertebrates like corals and crinoids.
2. Climate Change
News reports of typhoons, hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters have been increasing in frequency. These disasters are the result of a shift in weather patterns. Indeed, climate change threatens life on Earth.
The Ice Age, which took place about 11000 years ago, is a classic example of what happens because of climate change. Megafauna mammals (gargantuan animals like the Giant Beaver or Wooly Mammoth) couldn’t adapt to the extreme cold. They either succumbed to this or a lack of food.
Also, a disease can wipe out entire species of animals. Take chytridiomycosis, a fungal infection, which is threatening the Earth’s amphibians. Frogs, salamanders, and toads are falling prey to it.
We tend to forget that humans are animals too. Black Death, a plague spread by rats killed almost a third of Europe’s population during the middle ages.
4. Habitat Loss
Furthermore, most animals will become the inhabitants of places where they can hunt, forage for food, or breed their young. Many of these areas have disappeared since human beings started to expand their civilizations. As a result, many animal species have gone extinct along with them.
Pollution is a cause of habitat loss. Animals are sensitive to toxic chemicals. Industrial waste, produced by factories, releases these harmful substances. Animals become their unwitting victims.
5. Shrinking Genetic Pool
As animals die off, conservationists find it hard to find mates for the existing ones. It is always wise to breed a cheetah with another that isn’t related to it. Getting it to mate with its cousin may create the problem of inbreeding unwanted genetic traits like the susceptibility to diseases.
Moreover, better-adapted animal species will have an edge over competing ones. For example, the Cretaceous-Tertiary Extinction proved that prehistoric mammals survived better than dinosaurs. It’s essential to note that mammals didn’t just appear; many existed alongside the dinosaurs that are familiar to us.
An invasive species, either plant or animal, may reproduce wildly and cause the termination of a native population.
7. Food Shortage
A lack of food is an almost guaranteed way to wipe out entire animal populations. Hunger-weakened animals are prone to diseases and predation.
8. Human Predation
Poachers are threatening the animals we know and love (elephants, rhinos, tigers, etc.). We cannot deny the ecological havoc that we have wreaked during our short stay on Earth. We have already succeeded in depleting entire whale populations because of our need for whale oil. The Passenger Pigeon and the Dodo Bird have also become our victims.
10 Remarkable Extinct Species That Once Roamed the Earth
Here are some animals that became extinct for the reasons above. Information about these mindblowing creatures may surprise you.
First of all is the Kaeleira Or Argentavis Magnificens, once the largest flying bird on Earth. Seeing a female circle above its nest would have left you dumbstruck. Females only laid one or two eggs that weighed over a kilogram.
This giant had a wingspan of over five feet. The largest living bird, the Albatross, has a wingspan of only 3.6 feet. Though it can fly, it was primarily a land animal.
The Argentavis was a Bird of Prey which ate its catch whole. It suffered hardly any predation, so a lack of genetic diversity may have been the cause of its extinction.
2. The Passenger Pigeon
Next on the list is the Passenger Pigeon, which used to fly in flocks over North America. It was a speedy bird that soared the skies at speeds of up to 100km/h.
Note that the Passenger Pigeon population wasn’t always plentiful. It fluctuated dramatically until its decline and eventual extinction in the 19th century. Hunting was the primary cause of this, for poachers valued it as a cheap food source.
3. The Giant Lemur
The Giant Lemur, or the Subfossil Lemur, was a native of Madagascar. The largest of them, the Indri and the Diademed Sifaka, were the biggest primates on Earth.
They shared some features with today’s lemurs but were unlike them in size and appearance. Archaeologists compared them with large-bodied apes. They also had a unique dental trait known as the toothcomb, which they used to groom themselves. Many also had poor vision. Both human activity and natural factors contributed to its decline.
4. The Giant Ground Sloth
Also known as the Megatherium, this fellow was elephant-sized and native to South America. The only mammal which was more massive than it was the Wooly Mammoth. This creature was probably one of the slowest that ever existed.
Archaeologists first discovered Ground Sloth fossils along the Lujan River in Argentina. Like other Sloths, it used its giant claws to climb trees. It also had a cone-shaped mouth that resembled an anteater’s.
5. The West African Black Rhinoceros
This fellow needs a mention because it became extinct only in 2011. It was a common sight in sub-Saharan Africa but declined because poachers hunted it for its horn. It was a common remedy used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Enormous is the best word to describe this creature; it weighed about 1400 kg.
The Western African Black Rhino population had dropped to 2500 by 1995. Veterinarians Isabelle and Francois Lagot conducted a survey and found that it had become extinct five years before being declared so by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature).
6. Pyrenean Ibex
The Pyrenean Ibex or Bucardo was one of the subspecies of the Iberian Wild Goat. This species went extinct by 2000. It once roamed the Pyrenees, which stretch across Portugal, France, and Spain. These expert climbers tended to live in rocky habitats. Males had a brown coat that gradually faded.
Competition with other foreign and domestic grazing animals led to its decline and eventual extinction. The transmission of exotic diseases also resulted in its demise.
7. Tasmanian Wolf (or Tiger)
This shy, nocturnal creature was often mistaken for either a dog because it looked like one, or a tiger because of its stripes. The Tasmanian Wolf has an abdominal pouch and a tail that doesn’t seem to move.
Hunting, habitat destruction and the introduction of dogs all contributed to its destruction. Many people assumed that it was a dog because of its shape.
8. Steller’s Sea Crow
The Stellar’s Sea Crow is one of the largest mammals to have lived. It reached nearly nine meters in length. Hunting drove it to extinction in 1768. This animal had thick skin. It had blunt forelimbs, with no traces of hoofs. It used them to tear algae off rocks.
This zebra lived in the South African plains until it became an extinct species in the late 19th century. While the zebras we are familiar with have black and white stripes all over their bodies, this fellow had brown and white ones in the front. Quagga populations lived in Karoo of Cape Province until hunting drove them to extinction.
10. Pinta Island Tortoise
Finally, we have the Pinta Island Tortoise, whose close relative was the Galapagos Island Tortoise. The last known Pinta Island Tortoise, Lonesome George, died in 2012.
Their decline began when goats emigrated to the Galapagos Islands and ate nearly all of the available herbs and shrubs. Efforts to breed the last living Pinta Island Tortoise, Lonesome George, were unsuccessful because of a lack of females of the species.
How Do We Prevent Extinction?
A mass extinction occurs when three out of four species we are familiar with vanish. We are facing this grim reality and must do our part to prevent it.
1. Spreading the word
First of all, press the point about why it’s crucial to prevent the animals we share the Earth with from becoming extinct. As they are cherished resources, their dwindling numbers will mean that ours will shrink as well. Mobilizing people is the first step.
2. Reducing our carbon footprint
Also, limiting our use of fossil fuels will prevent climate change from reaching a lethal threshold. Little changes like not using the air conditioner unless its necessary will reduce our carbon footprint.
3. Buy from companies that use palm oil
You’ll find Palm Oil in soaps, cosmetics, and foods. Producers are cutting down forests to make way for Palm Oil plantations. Buy products from companies that make use of sustainably produced palm oil – oil that doesn’t come from such farms.
4. Consume fish from sustainable fisheries
Overfishing has wiped out much of the big fish from our oceans. Buy from fisheries that breed fish as well.
5. Eat less meat
Eating less meat would mean that farmers can grow crops for people instead of livestock. We would not only be able to feed more people, but also to avoid plowing over rainforests to make way for farms.
6. Don’t buy ivory
Furthermore, we can protect the rhinos and elephants that remain on our planet. Never buy anything made of ivory and rely on plant-sourced traditional medicine.
7. Enjoy nature
Being one with nature will allow us to experience Earth’s rich biodiversity. We’ll understand better the reasons we need to protect it as best we can.
8. Help Conservation Organizations
We can get involved with conservation organizations, and help them restore animal populations. We can become citizen scientists and create projects that will help protect endangered animals.
In all, we can save dwindling animal populations. Our effort will prevent our favorite animals from becoming members of an extinct species.