A small collection of extinct creatures
The causes of extinction can vary from the simple to the complex. It could be the result of human-focused short-term goals, natural selection or natural catastrophes. It’s estimated that over 99.9% of all species that ever lived on earth are extinct. The dying out of species will continue to happen regardless of human intervention, but we can at least try to preserve the life that currently exists on our planet.
So what’s the point of this blog post? My aim is to bookmark approximately when a species met its end. A fate we could share as well. I couldn’t possibly catalog all the life that has come and gone, but I can at least share this small collection.
To the many monsters that have come and gone throughout history, I want to bid you farewell.
The Great Irish Elk
The Great Irish Elk was neither exclusively Irish or an Elk. In fact, it was a deer that roamed the lands throughout Europe, northern Asia, northern Africa, and as far east as China and Siberia. It was the largest species of deer ever to exist that stood up to 6.9 feet in height at the shoulders with antlers spanning 12 feet from tip to tip. The name “Irish” stuck because of well-preserved fossils that were found in bogs in Ireland.
Unable to adapt to the subarctic conditions of the last glaciation, the Great Irish Elk became extinct around 11,000 years ago.
The Sabor-Toothed Tiger
The Sabor-Toothed Tiger was a carnivore, best known for their 8-inch canines that were capable of fatally wounding prey with a single bite. It stood 4 ft at the shoulders and weighed 490-880 lbs. Like modern big cats, it’s speculated that the Saber-Toothed Tigers lived—if not hunted— in packs as well.
The Sabor-Toothed Tiger roamed the mid-western United States and parts of both North and South America until becoming extinct around 12,000 years ago. Humans are thought to be the demise of this enormous cat.
The Great Teratorn
The Great Teratorn was among the largest flying birds ever to exist, with a wingspan of 23-30 feet. This species lived in Argentina during the late Miocene period. Even with a height of 6 ft and a weight of 160 lbs., strong legs and large feet enabled it to walk with ease.
It is uncertain why exactly the Great Teratorn became extinct, but it’s believed that it’s correlated with the disappearance of some of the mammals it fed on. It went extinct around 6 million years ago.
The Woolly Mammoth
The Woolly Mammoth was a large mammal that once roamed the vast frozen, northern landscapes during the Pleistocene epoch. They were covered in a thick coat of brown hair to keep them warm. Males reached shoulder heights up to 11 feet and weighed up to 6 tons.
The Woolly Mammoths are typically best known for their large curved tusks that can reach 16 ft in length. They were used for digging and collecting food. As well for intimidating and fighting off both predators and rivals.
It’s uncertain why the Woolly Mammoths became extinct, but there’s evidence to suggest that they were hunted to extinction by humans 3,700 years ago.
The Stegosaurus was a heavily-built armored dinosaur that had two rows of kite-shaped plates along its back with the end of its tail bearing four long spikes. This herbivore stood up to 9 ft in height and 30 ft in length. The Stegosaurus lived around 155 million years ago, during the Jurassic Period, in the western portion of North America and parts of Europe.
How exactly the Stegosaurus became extinct is unknown, but it’s thought it could just be the result of natural selection.
The Woolly Rhinoceros
The Woolly Rhinoceros is an extinct species of rhino that roamed the lands of Europe and Asia. Similar to rhinoceroses of today, the Woolly Rhinoceros lived alone or in small family groups. It was about 10-12.5 ft in length, stood six ft at the shoulder and weighed up to three tons. Its most notable feature were the two large horns on its snout. The bottom larger horn grew up to three ft in length.
This long-furred mammal was either hunted to extinction by early man—or its extinction was caused by climate change associated with the receding ice age around 10,000 years ago.
The Kronosaurus was a carnivorous reptile that dominated the oceans during the Cretaceous period 145 million years ago. Its powerful jaws were lined with many long, sharp, conical teeth which were used to capture small to medium-sized prey. It had an elongated head, a short neck, a stiff body propelled by four flippers and a relatively short tail. It grew up to 30-33 ft in length and weighed up to 11 tons.
The existence of the Kronosaurus was cut short when a massive asteroid or comet struck Earth near the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico around 66 million years ago.
The Giant Sloth
The Giant Sloth were mammals that rivaled the mammoth in size. It weighed up to 4 tons and measured 20 ft in length from head to tail. Although related to modern tree sloths, its large claws weren’t used to climb trees but instead were used for digging. The Giant Sloth lived on the ground, and its great size enabled it to feed at heights unreachable by other contemporary herbivores.
Evidence suggest that the appearance of an expanding population of human hunters was the cause of its extinction 10,000 years ago.
The Tasmanian Wolf
The Tasmanian Wolf was a carnivorous marsupial native to continental Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea. It was also known to be referred to as the Tasmanian Tiger because of its unique stripes along its lower back. It had the general size of a medium to large dog and had a stiff tail similar to a kangaroo.
With the clearing of habitat for sheep farming, the Tasmanian Wolf began to eat livestock for food in the mid-1800’s. This lead to farmers hiring bounty hunters that nearly exterminated the species. An unknown disease decimated the remaining population in 1910. By 1933, it’s believed that the species became extinct in the wild. In 1936, the last known Tasmanian Wolf died in captivity.
The Dodo was a flightless bird native to the small volcanic island of Mauritius off the coast of Africa. Unthreatened by predators, the Dodo evolved to be fat and clumsy but perfectly adapted to its environment. It stood 3 ft tall and weighed around 23–47 lbs.
Following soon after its discovery, the Dodo bird was hunted easily by sailors during the 17th century for meat. Their population growth slowed significantly when the introduction of invasive species like rats and cats ate the eggs of the Dodo. Less than 100 years after their discovery, it was extinct in 1662.
The extinction of the Dodo called attention to the previously unrecognized problem of human involvement in the disappearance of entire species.