The Last of The Last: We Caused Their Extinction
Things Are Born; Things Die
We live in a world of wonder, with each day bringing new things to bear in our lives, but this is also a world of death and extinction. There are many, many things that lived and thrived on this earth for untold centuries but were eventually deemed extinct due to different reasons. Let's look at some of them.
Have you ever been called a "dodo" or "dodo bird," because someone thought you did something dumb? Well, if you have, a good reply to the person saying that to you would have been, "I can't be a dodo; because they became extinct in the 1600s."
It is believed that a flock of pigeons, which possibly got lost, landed on the Island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean over 12,000 years ago. They probably had an abundance of food and didn't have a need to fly, thus evolved into a flightless bird. This turned out to be a reason for their extinction. When they were discovered by Dutch sailors in the late 1500s, they were killed an eaten, and it is believed the last dodo was sighted in 1662.
In a very unique turn-around of events, the passenger pigeon, which has been extinct since the early 1920s has been brought back by DNA cloning.
At one time there were approximately 4 to 5 million passenger pigeons in the United States. However, the slaughter of the bird began as cheap meat to feed the poor, and the killing of them as a sport. These events brought the species to extinction, with the last known one, dying in captivity in 1914.
Because feathers and other remnants of these birds exist in museums and other controlled environments, scientists believe DNA can be extracted and used to fertilize a female mourning dove, thus, reinventing the passenger pigeon. We shall wait and see.
Pinta Island Tortoise
Pinta Island is located in the Galápagos Islands group in Ecuador and was once the home of the Pinta Island tortoise. These giant creatures lived comfortably on the Island until sailors and others began killing them for food, which many said was delicious. The killing continued until only one tortoise was captured and lived in captivity until it died in 2012. He was named "Lonesome George," for the fact he was the last Pinta Island Tortoise.
Stellers Sea Cow
Yes, even the oceans of the world have cows, but these do not have feet. One particular animal that is no longer with up is the Stellers sea cow, named for naturalist George Steller, who discovered the creature in 1741. This mammal was herbivorous, just like the cow, and only ate plants, such as kelp, found floating in the oceans. It was very large and weighed up to 10 tons, and is believed to have spent much of its time eating. It was unable to submerge fully, and this made it an easy target for human hunters.
This sea cow lived in the waters off Alaska in the Bering Strait. The total population was estimated at about 2,000 in 1741 but became extinct by 1768 because of human hunters.
Some of you may have seen this amphibian if you visited Costa Rica before it became extinct in 1989. The golden toad inhabited the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Northern Costa Rica.
This frog, which was fluorescent, was believed to have become extinct in 1989 due to pollution, global warming, and fungal skin infections.
The quagga was a unique species of the zebra family. Its uniqueness was the fact it only had stripes on the front part of its body. This animal also had another unique quality, it searched for food with domesticated animals, and would be seen amongst them eating. It too would leave this Earth because of human hunters. It went extinct in the wild by 1878. The last captive quagga died in Amsterdam in 1883.
Madeiran Large White Butterfly
The beautiful Madeiran Large White butterfly was closely related to the Large White butterfly lived in the valleys of the Laurisilva forests on Portugal's Madeira Islands.
It is either extinct or very rare because the last one seen was in 1977. Its demise was believed to have been caused by a virus infection and possible changes in the atmosphere, caused by human neglect.
West African Black Rhinoceros
The West African black rhinoceros may have gone extinct because of its horns. This animal which lived in the southeastern region of Africa was prized by hunters who believed its horns (yes, horns-it had two) contained medicinal properties. Thus, hunting led to its extinction in 2011.
The name Tasmanian tiger was a misnomer of this extinct animal because it wasn't a tiger at all. It was a large meat-eating marsupial that lived in Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea.
Bounties were placed on it by ranchers and others for fear it would kill their livestock. This and disease caused the Tasmanian tiger to go extinct in the wild in 1920, with the last captive dying at the Hobart Zoo in 1936.
Canary Islands Oystercatcher
The Canary Islands oystercatcher was a bird who lived on the rocky shore rather than on beaches. Although it was named an oystercatcher, its diet consisted of small mollusks and crustaceans.
It is believed to have become extinct due to loss of habitat because of human encroachment. The last known Canary Islands oystercatcher was shot and killed in 1913.
The Mandans were a Native American tribe who lived along the Missouri River, in what is know the state of North Dakota. They were buffalo hunters, but also had gardens and grew vegetables. within the western land, now referred to as North Dakota.
When they contracted the white man's disease of smallpox, it decimated the tribe. This, along with war with the whites, caused their numbers to dwindle to about 125 in 1837. By 1934, they were extinct as a tribe.
The Karankawas were a tribe of Native American Indians who lived in southern Texas along the Gulf Coast. The helped the United States in the Texas War of Independence. Some of the subgroups of them included the Cujanes, Cocos, Guapites (Coapites), and Copanes.
It is believed that disease killed many of these people, but Juan Nepomuceno Cortina led a group of Texan colonists in raids in 1858 that killed most of the tribe, with the rest becoming extinct in 1891.
The Beothuk was a dark and tall Native American tribe with black hair and dark eyes. They lived for a huge number of years, prior to the Vikings arrival, in present-day Newfoundland. When Europeans under the leadership of John Cabot started exploiting lumber and fish in their area of habitat, the Beothuk were forced out of their land. The worry of white individuals, tuberculosis and malnutrition decimated the population, and the last member of the tribe, Shanawdithit died in 1829.
The novel, "Last of the Mohicans," by James Fenimore Cooper led us to believe the Mohicans were and extent tribe. However, the Mohican Indians are not extinct. There is a Stockbridge Mohican Indian community in Wisconsin, whose members are descendants of the 18th century eastern Mohicans.
We Are Responsible
I have listed only a small portion of extinct species; there are many more out there, including plants that are gone forever.
In the cases of extinct animals and people in this article, they all have a common denominator for going extinct; "humans." Yes, I said humans! We have done more damage to this Earth, animals, plants and ourselves than anything else. There are many programs that are working to change this, but until, we as individuals, become more aware of what were are contributing to the decimation of our Earth, the damage cannot be corrected, and in the case of the people and animals in this article, they are gone forever.
Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service https://www.parks.tas.gov.au/?base=4765
The Quagga Project https://quaggaproject.org/
Audubon Magazine https://www.audubon.org/magazine/may-june-2014/why-passenger-pigeon-went-extinct
For Animal and People https://www.thedodo.com/
Karankawa Indians - TSHA https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/bmk05
Legends of America https://www.legendsofamerica.com/
Encyclopedia Britannica - Mohicans https://www.britannica.com/topic/Mohican
BirdLife International http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/22693621
One Kind Of Planet https://onekindplanet.org/top-10/top-10-worlds-extinct-animals/
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Gerry Glenn Jones