10 of the Most Recently Extinct Animals in the World

Golden Toad (Bufo periglenes)

10 of the Most Recently Extinct Animals…

Golden Toad (Bufo periglenes)
Golden Toad (Bufo periglenes). Image credit: Charles H. Smith, vergrößert von Aglarech

No one is sure of the number of animals that have become extinct in the last 100 years, but scientists estimate it to be over 400, more than half of which humans are directly or indirectly responsible for. Indeed, in spite of conservation efforts, various species have slipped from our grasp and many more are on the brink of extinction. Below are some of the most newly extinct animals, animals that had been around for decades or even centuries, and have vanished during our lifetime.

1. Tecopa Pupfish – 1981

Tecopa pupfish
Extinct Tecopa pupfish (Cyprinodon nevadensis calidae). By E. Theriot / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Tecopa pupfish, once found in the Mojave Desert in California, was the first animal protected by the US Endangered Species Act to become extinct. As of 1972, not one fish could be found, and after an exhaustive search in 1981, it was officially declared extinct.

The Tecopa pupfish was a small fish, just over 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) long. The females had stripes and the males turned from brown to blue during the breeding season. It was a heat-tolerant fish, able to survive in waters above 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 Celsius).

Sadly, this trait did not save the Tecopa pupfish, and even led to its extinction. The hot springs where the Tecopa pupfish lived in were altered in the 1950s and 1960s to make bathhouses, spurring the decline of the Tecopa pupfish’s population, from which it never recovered.

2. Gastric-Brooding Frogs – 1985

The gastric-brooding frogs, or platypus frogs, were two species of frogs that could only be found in eastern Australia. They were unique among frogs in that they were the only frogs known to swallow their eggs, incubating them inside their stomachs and then regurgitating them after they had hatched.

The southern gastric-brooding frog was first discovered in 1972. The last wild specimen was seen in 1981 and the last captive specimen died in 1983. The northern gastric-brooding frog, which was larger and darker than the southern, was only discovered in 1984. Sadly, though, just a year after its discovery, it could no longer be found.

Their extinction of both has been blamed on several things, including logging activities in their limited habitat, the human introduction of certain fungi, bushfires and the degradation of air and water quality due to climate change.

Currently, there are efforts to bring gastric-brooding frogs back to life, using DNA from preserved specimens. Unless this project succeeds, these frogs will unfortunately remain extinct.

Bringing Back Weird Extinct Animals

3. Golden Toad – 1989

Golden Toad (Bufo periglenes)
Golden Toad (Bufo periglenes). Image credit: Charles H. Smith, vergrößert von Aglarech

Once found in the forests of Costa Rica, the golden toad (also known as the Monteverde toad, the Alajuela toad and the orange toad) was a true toad, about 2 inches (5 centimeters) long. The males, which outnumbered the females by as many as ten to one, were bright orange while the females were black with red and yellow spots.

The golden toad was discovered in 1964, and the last confirmed sighting was in 1989, of a single male. Initially, the extinction of the golden toad was blamed on global warming, but scientists have since debunked this, blaming the El Nino phenomenon instead, which caused the Costa Rica rainforest to become exceedingly hot and dry, which not only made it harder for the golden toad to reproduce but also allowed fungi to be more abundant, making the toads sick.

The golden toads of Costa Rica are featured in the following book:
25 Extinct Animals… since the Birth of Mankind!

4. Atitlan (Giant) Grebe – 1989

The Atitlan, or giant, grebe was about 20 inches (51 centimeters) long. It had a dark brown body with a black head, and the color of its neck and bill changed with the seasons. It lived around the Atitlan freshwater lake in Guatemala, where it fed on aquatic insects, frogs, fish and crustaceans.

The population of the Atitlan grebe began declining in 1958, after the introduction of the large- and smallmouth bass, which eat the fish and crabs that were a large part of the Atitlan grebe’s diet, leading to a decline in the grebe’s food supply. In 1965, only eighty grebes remained. Conservation efforts succeeded in increasing its population up to over 200, but after a 1976 earthquake, the lake bed fractured and the water level dropped, sealing the fate of the Atitlan grebe. The last two birds were seen in 1989.

To see one of the few images of the Atitlán grebe available, visit wikipedia.org/AtitlianGrebe

5. Dusky Seaside Sparrow – 1990

Dusky Seaside Sparrow
Male dusky seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus nigrescens) extinct since June 17, 1987. By P. W. Sykes

In 1986, an article appeared in the New York Times about Orange Band, the last living dusky seaside sparrow, which could only see with one eye. The next year, Orange Band died.

Before that, dusky seaside sparrows lived in the salt marshes of Merritt Island in Florida. There they fed on seeds, insects and spiders, and laid their eggs in cups made of reeds.

The reason for the dusky seaside sparrow’s extinction was DDT (Dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane), an insecticide that was sprayed around the marshes. It was meant to get rid of mosquitoes but, unfortunately, succeeded in destroying the sparrow’s only home as well.

6. Pyrenean Ibex – 2000

The Pyrenean ibex, also called the bucardo, was a subspecies of the Spanish ibex, and became extinct in 2000, wiped out by poaching, diseases and competition with other species for food. The last Pyrenean ibex, a female named Celia, died after being hit by a falling branch. Before she died, however, scientists were able to harvest tissue samples from her and in 2003, the Pyrenean ibex became the first extinct animal ever to be brought back by cloning. Sadly, that clone died within minutes, however, scientists in Spain are now beginning another attempt.

The Pyrenean ibex had short hair in summer and long hair in winter, with males having thick, ridged horns that curved in and out. The age of a male Pyrenean ibex could be determined from the number of ridges on its horns.

Scientists Try to Clone Extinct Species of Mountain Goat

7. Po’ouli – 2004

Poʻouli (Melamprosops phaeosoma)
A po’ouli phototographed by Paul E. Baker

The po’ouli was unlike any other bird in Hawaii, a brown and white bird with a black mask, that was around 5 inches (13 centimeters) long. It was a secretive bird, spending most of its time looking for tree snails, spiders and insects in the leaves of trees.

The po’ouli was discovered in 1973. From the onset it was rare, and in 1974, was placed on the list of Endangered Species. The last known specimen died in its cage in 2004. The cause of extinction? The destruction of its habitat, which may sadly lead to more extinctions in the future.

8. Baiji River Dolphin – 2006

The first part of the scientific name of the baiji is Lipotes, which means “left behind”, and that is exactly what happened to this river dolphin, which lived in the Yangtze River.

In 1979, China declared the baiji an endangered species. In 1990, its population had dropped to 200 and in 1996, it was listed as Critically Endangered. The last confirmed sighting was in 2004, and in 2006, after a survey conducted to search for the dolphin turned up no findings, the baiji was declared extinct. Pollution, dam construction and other navigation projects are blamed for its loss.

The baiji could grow up to 8 feet long and was pale blue with an upturned beak. Its dorsal fin was triangular in shape and paler than the rest of its body, earning the baiji the nickname “white-flag dolphin”.

Goodbye to the baiji, the Yangtze River dolphin | Natural History Museum

9. Western Black Rhino – 2011

Even today, rhino horns are prized — they’re used to make ceremonial knives and also ground up into traditional medicine, where it is believed to be a cure for poisoning and various other ailments, even cancer. This is the main reason why the western black rhino no longer exists, declared extinct in 2011. No western black rhinos have been seen since 2006.

The western black rhino is a subspecies of the black rhino and, like other black rhinos, it was a browser, eating the leaves and branches of various plants. It was around 12 feet (3.7 meters) long and could weigh over 3000 pounds (1361 kilograms)!

Western black rhino driven to extinction

10. Formosan Clouded Leopard – 2013

A subspecies of the clouded leopard found only in Taiwan, the Formosan clouded leopard had large spots and a short but strong tail. It was good at climbing trees and could even hang upside-down from tree branches! It preyed on monkeys and birds. In Taiwan, it was the second-largest carnivore.

It is unsure when the last Formosan clouded leopard was seen, but in 2000, cameras were placed in the Tawu Mountain Nature Reserve and the Twin-Ghost Lake Important Wildlife Area, both being places where the Formosan clouded leopard had been spotted before. After 13 years, however, no image of the leopard had been captured and the animal was declared extinct.

R.I.P the Formosan Clouded Leopard

Ten Creatures That Recently Suffered Extinction – A Quick Summary

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25 Extinct Animals… since the birth of mankind!




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