Extinct Animals: Rediscovering Lost Species Through Science

Human activities, like habitat destruction, pollution, and overexploitation, have accelerated extinction rates and impacted biodiversity.

Causes of Extinction

Extinction is a natural process, but human activities have accelerated it to alarming rates, influencing the balance of ecosystems and the diversity of life on Earth.

Habitat Loss and Pollution

The destruction of natural habitats is a principal cause of biodiversity loss, often a result of human activities such as deforestation for agriculture or urban development.

In many parts of the world, ecosystems were fragmented or completely demolished, leaving species without a home.

Pollution from industrial, agricultural, and urban sources further compounds the problem, introducing toxic substances into environments where plants and animals cannot survive.


The excessive harvest of species for food, trade, or sport, known as overexploitation, has led to the decline and extinction of numerous species.

Overfishing in marine environments and overhunting on land have caused significant drops in populations of fish, mammals, and other wildlife.

The demand for certain animals and plants has resulted in unsustainable fishing and hunting practices.

Natural Factors and Evolution

Extinction can occur naturally as a result of evolutionary processes where species that fail to adapt to changing environmental conditions or competition for resources die out.

Natural disasters such as volcanic eruptions or meteor impacts have also historically caused mass extinctions, drastically altering life on Earth.

Human Impact and Conservation

Human activities greatly impact species survival. Habitat destruction, introduction of invasive species, and the spread of diseases all contribute to extinction rates.

However, conservation efforts led by organizations like the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) focus on protecting vulnerable species through the Red List and promoting legislation to conserve critical habitats.

Climate Change and Biodiversity

Climate change has had a profound effect on biodiversity.

Alterations in temperature and weather patterns affect migrations, breeding cycles, and food availability, leading to a decline in diverse species. Amphibians, marine reptiles, and plants are among the many groups facing elevated risk of extinction due to climate-induced changes.

This has raised concerns about the onset of the sixth mass extinction, a human-caused reduction in biodiversity that poses a threat to ecosystems worldwide.

Famous Extinct Species

A group of famous extinct species roam a prehistoric landscape.</p><p>Dinosaurs, saber-toothed tigers, and woolly mammoths coexist in a lush, ancient environment

The discussion of extinct species often evokes images of creatures from distant pasts, such as the dodo or the woolly mammoth.

These animals serve as poignant reminders of the biodiversity earth has lost.

Extinct Flightless Birds

Perhaps the most emblematic of lost species is the dodo, a flightless bird from Mauritius, hunted to extinction in the 17th century.

Closely following in notoriety is the passenger pigeon, once massively abundant in North America but decimated by the 19th century due to intensive hunting.

Iconic Mammals

Australia’s Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, was a carnivorous marsupial that became extinct in the 20th century, largely due to culling by humans.

Genetic studies have since found it to be closer to kangaroos than to tigers.

The woolly mammoth is another prehistoric mammal that roamed during the last Ice Age, primarily found in regions of Europe and North America, with its extinction around 4,000 years ago due to climate change and hunting.

Marine and Freshwater Species

Marine and freshwater ecosystems have also lost species, such as the Steller’s sea cow, which was native to the Bering Sea but hunted to extinction within 27 years of its discovery.

With overfishing, species like the bluefin tuna face risks reminiscent of those that led to the disappearance of countless marine animals in earlier times.

Extinct Reptiles and Amphibians

The cretaceous period saw the demise of reptiles like pterosaurs and iconic dinosaurs.

Modern-day amphibians, such as certain frog species, are disappearing at alarming rates, reflecting a crisis similar to past mass extinctions.