Profiles ... extinct animals
Some species that are extinct have become very well-known, others have never been heard of. The first is the dinosaurs, but if we were to list all the dinosaurs, it would take forever.
Between 1 and 1650 A.D., at least 10 species of mammal and 10 species bird met their doom prematurely. This is a rate of approximately one every 165 years. They included the ancient wild ox of Eurasia, the giant ground sloth of the West Indies, the elphant bird of Madagascar, and the moas of New Zealand. There are no records to show how many cold-blooded animals and plants became extinct during this time.
Between 1650 and 1850, the rate increased to one warm-blooded species every five years instead of 165 years. The losses included the famous dodo of Mauritius (1693) and the geat auk of North Atlantic coasts (1844).
The dodo is probably the most famous of all extinct animals, and witness the saying "as dead as a dodo", meaning that it is very dead! One animal that amn unwittingly introduced to Mauritius helped exterminate the dodo. The newcomer was a brown rat. It travelled abroad ships as a stowaway. It spread from Asia and became the wharf rat, the sewer rat and the garbage-dump rat.
The elephant bird could not fly and was slow runner. When people came to the island off the coast of Africa, they found the bird was good to eat and they hunted it to extinction.
The moa was a huge ostrich-like bird, it could not fly either and it did not even have wings, but it had strong legs with four toes. The moa also ended up extinct due to hunting just like to elephant bird.
The great auk was killed off by fishermen who climbed to the nesting sites of the birds on offshore islands, clubbed the adults, using them and their young for oil and collecting their feathers for sale to the featherbed industry. These birds were the original penguins, from which the name was later transferred to the unrelated inhabitants of the Southern Hemisphere.
Since 1850, the quagga (1875), the Falkland duck (1876), the passenger pigeon (1914), the Carolina paroquet (1920), the bubal hartebeest from Algeria (1923), the Syrian wild ass (1928), the heath hen (1933), and probably the Tasmanian wolf have become extinct.
The quagga, looked like a cross between a zebra and a horse. It had stripes on its head and shoulders only and the remaining part of the body was brown. South African hunters shot so many quagga that in 1875 they finally shot the last one.
The passenger pigeon was known widely for its enormous populations. Flocks sometimes took three days to pass over a single spot. An estimate claimed that over 300 million birds passed every hour. The beating of their wings could be heard six miles away. Containing as many as 2 billion birds, these flocks made nests in long, narrow colonies forty miles long and several miles across.
As time passed, the human population increased, and soon railroads and homes took over the wild forests. Market hunters could now ship the birds to commercial trade centers. Forests were cut down.
The decrease of the passenger pigeon was tremendous and amazingly fast. By the 1880s their numbers were trickling away all over North America. In 1878 one individual alone shipped three million birds from the bird's last reserve. The last wild passenger pigeon was seen in Michigan eleven years later, and Martha, the last captive passenger pigeon, passed away at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914. Hunting was not what killed the birds in the end as they had ceased to provide good profit since their huge flocks had vanished. It was the formation of huge flocks that had been essential to the pigeon's survival.
Steller's sea cow lived off the coast of Siberia in Russia. It was first discovered in 1741. It was heavier than an african elephant and bigger as well. It had dark, thick, tough skin like the bark of a tree. It was harmless and spent most of its time in the shallow water eating seaweed. They were very easy to hunt because they lived near the shore in small herds. Within thirty years, the species were extinct
The Tasmanian wolf or Tasmanian tiger(Australia),was neither a wolf nor a tiger. Scientists called it a thylacine. People hunted the thylacine because they sometimes killed sheep and chickens. No one has seen the Tasmanian wolf in nature for over fifty years and it is believed to be extinct.