10 Fascinating Extinct Animals: Creature Countdown – FreeSchool

10 Fascinating Extinct Animals: Creature Countdown – FreeSchool

Articles, Blog , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , 55 Comments

You’re watching FreeSchool! You probably already know that there were
once animals on the Earth that don’t live here anymore – like dinosaurs,
or the wooly mammoth. We say that animals that have died out – that is, all
of them have died, so none are left alive – have gone extinct. Most people
think of extinct animals as ones that died out a long, long time ago, but some
animals have gone extinct recently enough that people saw it happen
and in some cases, even caused it. This is a countdown of ten fascinating extinct
animals, including some you’ve probably never heard of, as well as
some you may have! Number 10: Steller’s Sea Cow. Steller’s Sea Cow was a marine mammal, similar
to living dugongs and manatees, but much, much larger. First described
in 1741 by the German explorer Georg Wilhelm Steller during an expedition
in the North Pacific, Steller’s Sea Cow grew to a length of 30 feet
or over 9 meters. Slow moving herbivores, the sea cows were easy to catch
and kill. They provided valuable food for the explorers; in addition, their
thick skins were used to make boats and their fat was used in oil lamps.
Already endangered when Stellar first wrote about them, it took only 27 years
for hunters to kill the last of them, and by 1768 they were extinct. Number 9: the Bluebuck. A species of antelope that formerly ranged
the southern tip of South Africa, the bluebuck was not actually blue, although
it may have seemed that way due to a mixture of black and yellow hairs. When
Europeans first encountered the bluebuck in the 17th century, it was already
quite rare, and it did not take very many years for the last of them to be
hunted down and killed as food, although it is recorded that they did not
taste very good. Still, by the year 1800, bluebucks were extinct. Number 8: the Moa. Native to New Zealand, the Moa grew to an
incredible 12 feet or 3.6 meters in height, and weighed up to a staggering
510lbs or 230 kilograms. Before Polynesians settled the islands, their only
predator was the huge Haast’s eagle, which is also extinct. Unfortunately
for the moa, the Maori arrived in New Zealand around 1280 AD and began to
hunt them, and by about 1440, less than 200 years later, they had been driven
to extinction. Number 7: the Aurochs. The ancestor of the modern day cows we are
familiar with, Aurochs roamed wild over most of Europe and Asia. Larger
and more aggressive than modern cattle, the aurochs were strong enough to
defend themselves from wolves. Despite their strength and size, hunting and
competition from domestic animals eventually caused their population
to dwindle. By 1564, only a few dozen remained, and despite efforts to protect
them, by 1627 the last known aurochs had died. Unlike the other animals listed so far, the
aurochs may not stay extinct. Several breeds of cattle are closely related
to the aurochs, and some people are trying to use selective breeding to create
aurochs again. Number 6: The Thylacine. The Thylacine, more commonly known as the
Tasmanian Tiger, was native to Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea. Although
it has been compared to a tiger or a wolf, the thylacine was actually
a marsupial, like koalas and kangaroos. Depicted in Aboriginal rock art
as far back as 3,000 years ago, the thylacine’s first definite encounter with
Europeans was not until 1792. The European settlers brought dogs and diseases
with them that began to reduce the population. In addition, farmers
began killing them because they thought thy were eating their chickens and
sheep. By 1930, the only known thylacines lived in zoos. By 1936, the last
captive thylacine had died. Like the aurochs, the thylacine may not stay
extinct. Because its extinction was so recent, scientists have samples of
thylacine genetic material and DNA. Someday, they may be able to use it to
clone new thylacines to once again roam the forests of Tasmania. Number 5: the Passenger Pigeon. When European settlers arrived in North America,
the passenger pigeon was one of the most abundant birds in the world.
One flock was described as so huge that it was a mile wide, 300 miles long,
and took more than 14 hours to pass by. It is estimated that the flock contained
more than 3.5 billion pigeons. Because they were so common, they
were hunted heavily as food. Between 1870 and 1890 their numbers dropped
sharply, and in 1914, the last known passenger pigeon, a female named Martha,
died in the Cincinnati Zoo. Although scientists are now researching methods
to bring passenger pigeons back from extinction, the birds are not able
to reproduce outside of large flocks, something which played a role in their
decline, and so instead of only a few individuals, they would need to
create several thousand birds for a de-extinction effort to be successful. Number 4: the Pyrenean Ibex. The only animal with the dubious distinction
of going extinct not once but twice, the Pyrenean Ibex was a type of wild
goat native to the Iberian Peninsula in Europe. Competition with livestock
and hunting gradually reduced its numbers, and in the year 2000
the last known member of the species was found dead. That was not the end of the Pyrenean Ibex,
however. A few years later scientists successfully produced a cloned
ibex kid. Sadly, although it was born alive, the kid died after only a few
minutes due to a lung defect. This marked the first time that an extinct animal
had been returned to life, however briefly, and scientists continue trying
to revive this species. Number 3: the Great Auk. Although similar to them in appearance, the
great auk was actually not at all related to penguins. Native to the North
atlantic and found along the coastlines of Canada, Greenland, Iceland,
Norway, Ireland and Great Britain, the Great Auk was a tall bird, reaching 33
inches or 85 centimeters in height. Much like penguins, great auks were
flightless, but agile swimmers, diving to catch fish and other sea creatures
to eat. Hunted by humans for their feathers, which were used to stuff pillows,
by the mid 1500s their populations were declining. When people realized
that they were becoming rare, they attempted to protect them. These
measures were at least partially sucessful, because the great auk survived
nearly three hundred years from that time before finally becoming extinct
around 1844. Number 2: The Quagga. Long thought to be a distinct species, modern
research has shown that the quagga was actually a subspecies of the modern
plains zebra. Native to a small area of south africa, the quagga was
hunted for its meat and for its unusual skin – striped at the head, and brown
near the tail. The quagga was extinct in the wild by 1878, although a few
solitary animals survived in zoos until the last died in 1883. Because the quagga was so closely related
to living zebras, scientists think it might be possible to recreate them with
selective breeding. In 1987 the Quagga Project began attempting just that,
and they are beginning to have some success. Someday soon, the quagga may
no longer qualify as an extinct species! Number 1: The Dodo. Arguably the most famous of all modern extinctions,
the dodo has become a symbol of mankind’s negative impact on vulnerable
species. The dodo was native to the uninhabited island of Mauritius
in the Indian Ocean. Because of its isolation and the lack of serious predators
on the island, the dodo was flightless and nested on the ground. When
Dutch sailors first encountered them in 1598, they hunted the
dodo for meat. Never having encountered humans before, dodos were unafraid
and were killed easily. In addition, the humans brought dogs, pigs, cats
and rats to the island, all of which disturbed their nests and ate their
eggs. Under this double threat, the dodos were soon all killed, and by 1690,
less than 100 years after they had been discovered, the dodo was extinct. The extinction of the dodo was incredibly
important. It was the first time that it was widely recognized that humans
could, by their actions, cause an animal to be completely wiped from the face
of the planet. With that knowledge comes the understanding that if
we want the wonderful and amazing animals that still live on Earth to remain
here, that we must take care of them and the places that they live, or they
too may ‘go the way of the dodo.’ I hope you enjoyed learning a little about
some of the fascinating creatures that once roamed the earth. Goodbye till next
time, and stay tuned for more creature countdowns from FreeSchool.

55 thoughts on “10 Fascinating Extinct Animals: Creature Countdown – FreeSchool

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *