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List of 14 Extinct Animals and Why They Went Extinct

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Examples of extinct animals include the West African Black Rhino, Dodo, Smooth Handfish, Great Auk, Wooly Mammoth, Tasmanian Tiger, and more.

More animal species have gone extinct than the number of species existing in the present day. 

Throughout history, more than five billion species have existed. More than 99.9% of these are extinct now.

From the fierce saber-toothed cat to the dodo, these creatures no longer exist. This article covers 14 of the top extinct animals.

Extinct Animals

The most well-known extinct animals are the dinosaurs. But they are far from the only ones.

Here are a few examples of other extinct animals:

  • West African Black Rhinoceros
  • Dodo
  • Smooth Handfish
  • Steller’s Sea Cow
  • Passenger Pigeon
  • Great Auk
  • The Spix Macaw
  • Tasmanian Tiger
  • Carolina Parakeet
  • Woolly Mammoth
  • Round Island Burrowing Boa
  • Dutch Alcon Blue Butterfly
  • Pinta Island Tortoise
  • Eurasian Auroch
  • Javan Tiger

1. West African Black Rhinoceros

West African Black Rhinoceros
Scientific NameDiceros bicornis longipes
Common NameWest African Black Rhinoceros
Animal ClassMammalia
DietLeafy plants, branches, shoots, fruits, thorny wood bushes
HabitatOpen plains, savannas, thickets, sparse thorn scrub, dry forests

The West African black rhinoceros was a subspecies of the black rhinoceros. It was native to western Africa, ranging from Senegal in the west to Cameroon in the east. It is now extinct.

This large animal was similar in appearance to the other subspecies of black rhinoceros. It had a dark grey or black skin, and a thick hair coat. The horns were made of keratin, and were slimmer and shorter than those of other subspecies.

The West African black rhinoceros was a browser and fed on leaves, twigs, and fruits. It lived in primary forests and woodlands. It was hunted for its horns, which were used in traditional medicine[1]. The horns were also sold as trophies and the meat was sometimes eaten.

Habitat loss and fragmentation due to logging and conversion of forest to agricultural land led to the decline of the West African black rhinoceros. 

By the early 1990s, the population had declined by 98%. The last known individual was seen in 2006, and the subspecies were declared extinct in 2011.

2. Dodo

Dodo
Scientific NameRaphus cucullatus
Common NameDodo
Animal ClassAves
DietFallen fruits, nuts, bulbs, seeds, shellfish, crabs
HabitatMauritius

The Dodo is an extinct animal that was native to the island of Mauritius. The last known sighting of a Dodo was in 1662 and it is believed that the species became extinct sometime between 1681 and 1693. 

The Dodo was a large bird that was unable to fly. It is thought that the Dodo became extinct due to hunting by humans.

Dutch sailors first described the Dodo in the late 16th century. The word “dodo” comes from the Portuguese word for foolish. 

The Dodo was a shy bird that was not afraid of humans. This made it easy for sailors to kill them for food. It was also hunted by pigs and rats introduced to the island by humans. These animals would eat the Dodo’s eggs and young.

The Dodo was a large bird that weighed about 23 kg (50 lbs)[2]. It was about 1 meter (3 ft) tall and had a small head with a hooked beak. Their legs were short and they had small wings. Their wings were too small to be used for flight. It was covered in feathers that were brown and white.

3. Smooth Handfish

Smooth Handfish
Image Source
Scientific NameSympterichthys unipennis
Common NameSmooth Handfish
Animal ClassActinopterygii
DietShrimps, small shellfish, polychaete worms
HabitatWaters off the coast of Tasmania

The smooth handfish is a type of ray-finned fish that is now extinct. They were once found in the waters off the coast of Australia, but they have not been seen since the early 1900s.

Smooth handfish get their name from their smooth, scaleless skin and their long, slender fins which they use to “walk” on the seafloor. They were among the first fish to evolve this type of locomotion and were thought to be closely related to the more primitive lungfish.

Smooth handfish grew to a length of around 4 cm (1.6 inches) and were black or dark brown in coloration. Not much is known about their diet or behavior, but it is thought that they fed on small crustaceans and other invertebrates.

These small fish were first described by the English naturalist Edward Latham in 1793, from specimens collected off the coast of New South Wales. 

Unfortunately, these are the only specimens that have ever been found and the smooth handfish is now considered to be extinct.

4. Steller’s Sea Cow

Steller’s Sea Cow
Image Source
Scientific NameHydrodamalis gigas
Common NameSteller’s Sea Cow
Animal ClassMammalia
DietAquatic plant matter
HabitatShallow waters in the Bering Sea

The Steller’s sea cow is a large, extinct mammal that was once found in the waters around Alaska and Russia. The last known individual of this species died in 1768, just 27 years after it was first described by European scientists.

This massive creature could reach lengths of up to 30 feet and weigh up to 8 tons. It had a large, bulky body with a thick hide and small, paddle-like flippers. Its head was relatively small and blunt, with two small eyes set far apart.

The sea cow was a gentle giant and mostly fed on algae. It was slow-moving and unaggressive, making it an easy target for hunters. It is thought that overhunting was the main cause of its extinction.

Despite its size and slow movements, the sea cow was a very graceful swimmer. It is said that they could remain submerged for up to half an hour at a time.

5. Passenger Pigeon

Passenger Pigeon
Scientific NameEctopistes migratorius
Common NamePassenger Pigeon
Animal ClassAves
DietAcorns, beechnuts, seeds, berries
HabitatEastern deciduous forests

The Passenger Pigeon was once the most abundant bird in North America, with a population in the billions. Due to hunting and habitat loss, this majestic bird went extinct in the early 20th century.

The Passenger Pigeon was a medium-sized bird, with dark plumage and a white belly. The males had iridescent feathers on their necks, which were used to attract mates. These birds were social creatures, living in large flocks of up to a million birds[3].

These pigeons migrated in huge flocks, darkening the sky as they passed overhead. They were a major food source for Native Americans and early settlers, who would hunt them for their meat.

The Passenger Pigeon represents a tragic story of human impact on the environment.

6. Great Auk

Great Auk
Image Source
Scientific NamePinguinus impennis
Common NameGreat Auk
Animal ClassAves
DietFishes
HabitatNorth Atlantic coastal waters

The great auk was a flightless bird native to the Atlantic Ocean. The last known specimen was killed in 1844, and the species is now extinct.

The great auk was a large bird, measuring about 3 feet long and weighing up to 10 pounds. The plumage was black and white, with the wings being black and the body being white. Their bill was also black, and their legs were short and stubby.

This was a social creature, nesting in colonies on rocky islands off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. The birds would incubate their eggs for about six weeks before they hatched.

The great auk was a prey species and was hunted by humans for its meat and feathers. They were also killed for their oil, which was used in lamps and as a lubricant.

7. Wild Spix Macaw

Wild Spix Macaw
Image Source
Scientific NameCyanopsitta spixii
Common NameThe Spix Macaw
Animal ClassAves
DietNuts, seeds, fruits, cactus meat, small bark of trees
HabitatSemi-arid regions

Wild Spix Macaw was a species of macaw that was endemic to the Brazilian state of Bahia. The bird was last seen in the wild in 2000 and is now presumed to be extinct in the wild.

The Spix Macaw was a medium-sized parrot with a length of about 50 cm (20 inches). The plumage was mostly blue, with a bare face and a yellowish-green crown. The wings and tail were darker blue, and the underparts were paler blue.

They were found in the caatinga, a type of dry forest habitat in northeastern Brazil, where they fed on fruits, nuts, and seeds, and nested in tree cavities.

The Spix Macaw was first described by German naturalist Georg Marcgrave in 1638. It was named after Johann Baptist von Spix, who collected the first specimen in 1819.

In the 19th century, the population started declining due to habitat loss and hunting for the bird trade. By the early 20th century, the bird was thought to be extinct. A small population was discovered in the 1970s, but the Spix Macaw was still critically endangered.

8. Tasmanian Tiger

Tasmanian Tiger
Image Source
Scientific NameThylacinus cynocephalus
Common NameTasmanian Tiger
Animal ClassMammalia
DietKangaroos, wallabies, sheep
HabitatGrasslands, wetlands, dry eucalyptus forests

The Tasmanian tiger was the largest known carnivorous marsupial of modern times. It is also commonly known as the Tasmanian wolf or thylacine. 

The thylacine became extinct in mainland Australia much earlier but persisted on the island state of Tasmania until the last captive individual died in 1936. It is estimated that the thylacine population was never large, at most a few thousand individuals.

Despite its official classification as extinct, sightings of the Tasmanian tiger are still reported, though none have ever been confirmed. 

The animal was relatively shy and avoided contact with humans, but it was also notoriously difficult to capture alive, which made it hard to study in captivity. The last known individual was a male named “Benjamin”, who died on September 7, 1936, in the Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart.

There are many theories about what caused the extinction of the Tasmanian tiger, but the most likely cause is a combination of factors, including hunting by humans, disease, and changes to the animal’s habitat. 

9. Carolina Parakeet

Carolina Parakeet
Image Source
Scientific NameConuropsis carolinensis
Common NameCarolina Parakeet
Animal ClassAves
DietSeeds of forest trees and shrubs
HabitatDeciduous forests and forest edges

The Carolina parakeet was the only parrot species native to the eastern United States. These brightly-colored birds were once so common in their range that they were said to darken the skies. 

This parakeet was popular as pets, and as a result, they were hunted to extinction. The last known Carolina parakeet died in captivity in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1918.

Carolina parakeets were about the size of a pigeon, with green plumage and yellow and orange accents on their wings and tail. They were social creatures that lived in flocks of up to 100 individuals. 

They were known for their loud calls, which could be heard from up to a mile away.

The Carolina parakeet was a versatile bird that could eat just about anything, but their favorite food was the fruit of the prickly pear cactus. They were also known to eat insects, other birds’ eggs, and small mammals.

10. Woolly Mammoth

Woolly Mammoth
Image Source
Scientific NameMammuthus primigenius
Common NameWoolly Mammoth
Animal ClassMammalia
DietPlants such as grass
HabitatMammoth steppe

The Woolly Mammoth was a species of mammoth that lived during the Pleistocene epoch and was one of the last in a line of mammoths. They were well adapted to the cold climates of their time, with their large bodies and thick fur coats. 

Wolly Mammoths were best known for their impressive tusks, which could reach up to six feet in length.

The Woolly Mammoth went extinct around 10,000 years ago, most likely due to a combination of climate change and hunting by humans. 

Their legacy lives on in popular culture, as they have been featured in many books, movies, and TV shows. Most recently, they were the star of the animated movie Ice Age: Continental Drift.

11. Round Island Burrowing Boa

Round Island Burrowing Boa
Image Source
Scientific NameBolyeria multocarinata
Common NameRound Island Burrowing Boa
Animal ClassReptilia
DietLizards, rodents
HabitatHardwood forests, palm savanna

The Round Island Burrowing Boa was a small, stocky snake that was endemic to the Round Island, off the coast of Mauritius. It is one of the most recently extinct snakes in the world, having been last seen in 1975.

The boa was heavily built, with a short tail and blunt head. Adults grew to a maximum length of around 60 cm (2 ft). They were brown or reddish-brown in color, with dark cross-bands on the body.

This was a burrowing snake and lived in holes that it excavated in the ground. It fed on small mammals, lizards, and birds. It was first described by French naturalist Georges Cuvier in 1829, based on a specimen that had been brought to him from Mauritius.

The boa became extinct due to habitat loss and introduced predators such as rats and cats. The last confirmed sighting of the snake was in 1975.

12. Pinta Island Tortoise

Pinta Island Tortoise
Image Source
Scientific NameChelonoidis nigra abingdonii
Common NamePinta Island Tortoise
Animal ClassReptilia
DietVegetation including grasses, lichens, cacti, leaves
HabitatArid lowlands

The Pinta Island Tortoise was a subspecies of giant tortoise that was endemic to the Galápagos Islands. The last known individual of the species, Lonesome George, died in 2012.

George the tortoise was estimated to be around 100 years old when he died, making him the oldest known tortoise in the world. He was found on Pinta Island in 1971, and was brought to the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz Island.

Despite efforts to breed George with other subspecies of giant tortoise, he never produced offspring. As a result, the Pinta Island Tortoise is now extinct.

13. Eurasian Auroch

Eurasian Auroch
Image Source
Scientific NameBos primigenius Bojanus
Common NameEurasian Auroch
Animal ClassMammalia
DietGrasses, acorns, twigs
HabitatForests, swamps, mountains, steppes

The Eurasian Auroch was a massive wild cattle that inhabited Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It is believed to have gone extinct in the early 1600s.

The auroch was the most massive land mammal to ever exist on Earth. It stood over six feet tall at the shoulder and weighed up to a ton. It was dark brown or black, with a thick coat of hair.

These were fierce and dangerous animals. They were known to attack and kill humans, but were ultimately hunted for their meat and horns.

The Eurasian Auroch was an important animal in human history. It was domesticated and bred to create the modern cattle that we have today. The auroch was a powerful symbol of strength and virility in many cultures. It was venerated and worshipped by some people.

14. Javan Tiger

Javan Tiger
Image Source
Scientific NamePanthera tigris sondaica
Common NameJavan Tiger
Animal ClassMammalia
DietWild boar, water fowl, reptiles, rusa deers
HabitatJava Island, Indonesia

The Javan Tiger is one of the most iconic extinct animals. It was a large tiger that lived on the island of Java in Indonesia. The last Javan Tiger was killed in 1979, and the subspecies are now considered to be extinct.

The Javan Tiger was a type of tiger, with orange fur and black stripes. It was a powerful hunter and could take down large prey. They were apex predators and had no natural enemies.

This Tiger species was hunted by humans, and the population declined rapidly. By the 1970s, there were only a few dozen Javan Tigers left in the wild. The last Javan Tiger was killed in 1979, and the subspecies are now considered to be extinct.

FAQs

What Is the Most Recent Extinct Animal?

The Splendid Poison Frog was one of the most recently extinct animals. It was a small frog that was only found in one place in the world, on the island of Maevo in the Solomon Islands. The frog’s bright colors were used to warn predators of its poisonous skin. The last known individual died in captivity in 2009, and the species was declared extinct in 2020.

Are There Any Extinct Animals Found?

It is amazing what we can find when we look hard enough. The coelacanth was thought to be extinct. It is a fish that was around during the time of the dinosaurs. It was believed to have gone extinct 65 million years ago. That all changed in 1938 when a fisherman caught one off the coast of South Africa. Since then, there have been several more sightings of this “living fossil.”

How Many Animals Have Existed In the World’s History?

There have existed approximately five billion species of animals throughout the history of Earth. Scientists estimate that 10-15 million species live on earth currently, whereof one million have been identified by humans.

How Many Animals Have Gone Extinct?

Approximately five billion species have gone extinct throughout the world’s history, amounting to 99.9% of the total species ever lived.

About Teodoro Pittman

Teodoro is a nature and animal lover. He specifically focuses on insects, such as ants, bees, and the like. In his free time, he takes care of his own ant farm, where he analyzes their behavior. Teodoro has spent the last 7 years studying the intricate behavior of these small creatures.

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