Extinction Facts
Extinction Facts

43 Fresh Facts about Extinction

Kaylee Heath
By Kaylee Heath, Associate Writer
Published September 2, 2017
  • Giant armadillos as big as cars roamed the earth long before highways and freeways existed. These gigantic creatures died off 10,000 years ago.[9]
  • Pubic lice--a tiny, blood-sucking species of lice that makes its home in human pubic hair--are now endangered because of the growing popularity of the Brazilian bikini wax.[11]
  • A less-known goal of the Nazi party leaders was to resurrect extinct animals.[15]
  • Boy Scientist
    Scientists believe that there are much larger dinosaur fossils yet to be discovered
  • The heaviest dinosaur weighed up to 110 tons, the weight of a massive orca whale. The fastest dinosaur, an ostrich-like creature with muscular legs, could run up to 40 MPH.[12]
  • In an effort to save the disappearing golden frogs of Panama, a local bed and breakfast allowed these frogs to reside in their rooms. The amount of poison in one golden frog can kill up to 1,000 mice.[13]
  • Many scientists believe that within the next 75 years, half of the earth's species will be extinct.[5]
  • The Okapi, a cross between a giraffe and a zebra, was believed to be extinct for decades before being recently spotted in a national park.[5]
  • An amazing all-female species of lizard manages to produce offspring without any help from their extinct male mates. These lizards maintain genetic diversity by beginning the reproduction process with twice the amount of chromosomes than any other lizard species.[8]
  • Aristotle wrote a 10 book series, History of Animals, without ever actually considering the concept of extinction. He believed that species were eternal; they had always existed and would continue to exist forever.[13]
  • The word “amphibian” comes from the Greek root meaning “double life.” Although their adaptability makes them both land and water creatures that have survived the first five extinctions, they are now the world’s most endangered group of animals.[13]
  • Facts about Frogs
    Amphibians need all the love we can give

  • The first American mastodon bone was discovered by an army of French troops. They brought a 3.5 foot long thigh bone and several massive teeth back to their army camp.[13]
  • The idea of extinction was not even considered until the discovery of the American mastodon in the early 1700s. The vast majority of Western philosophers and scientists before this time, most of whom followed Aristotle, believed that animal species could not or would not die out. Even though it is now a natural part of our scientific understanding, extinction was first considered tragic and pessimistic.[13]
  • Even Thomas Jefferson became enraptured with the discovery of the American mastodon. In his Notes on the State of Virginia, he contemplates what animal extinction could mean to humanity.[13]
  • According to many scientists, 99% of all species who have lived on the earth are now extinct.[5]
  • Giant Sloth Extinct
    Salvador, this life-size replica of the ancient giant sloth, stands at the entrance of the Costa Rican "Sloth Sanctuary" (R Richardson / Sloth Sanctuary)
  • The remains of the diprotodon, a giant sloth, were first mistaken as elephant remains due to their massive size. This sloth was approximately the size of a rhino.[15]
  • Although we often think of the extinction of the dinosaurs as an ancient extinction, it actually was the most recent of the prior 5 mass extinctions.[13]
  • The sabertooth tiger, which went extinct 10,000 years ago, weighed up to 1,102 pounds and had fangs measuring 12 inches. This is more than the weight of a grand piano.[5]
  • The Dunkleosteus fish, which lived approximately 280 million years ago, measured 33 feet long and weighed 3.5 tons.[5]
  • In the last half-billion years, there have been only five waves of mass extinction. Many scientists believe we are now in a sixth, with dozens of species going extinct every day.[1][7]
  • The current global rate of extinction matches that of the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.[7]
  • Extinction occurs at a natural background rate of 1-5 species per year. However, human influence has now sped up this process 1,000-10,000 times this rate.[1]
  • In 1965, a woman who ran an equestrian center for children discovered a 3-4 foot pony prancing along the shore of the Caspian Sea. It turned out to be the long-believed extinct Caspian Horse, the oldest breed of domestic horse still alive today.[5]
  • Scientists speculate that many animals have gone extinct from the spreading of rabies.[5]
  • “Black dirt,” the mixture of sediments found under the melting ice caps during the ice age climate change, is excellent at preserving fossils. This is one reason we know much about the huge megafauna creatures that lived during that time.[15]
  • When the DNA of a species becomes genetically homogenous, they are critically in danger for going extinct.[15]
  • Killing a bald eagle is a federal offense, with a penalty of up to $250,000 in fines and 2 years in prison.[14]
  • Bald Eagle Facts
    In 1963, only 417 pairs of bald eagles remained on the earth

  • A group of scientists in the 1980s searched for a perfectly-frozen, extinct Wooly Mammoth with usable frozen sperm. Although they were unsuccessful, it began a movement called the “Mammoth Creation Project,” interested in bringing back the Wooly Mammoth.[15]
  • Thylacoleo, an extinct species of lion, had opposable thumbs not too different from human thumbs.[15]
  • It is believed that many extinction waves in Australia, the world’s “most flammable continent,” were caused by fires started by human torches.[15]
  • The world's last carrier pigeon, which died in 1914, was named "Martha" after George Washington's wife.[9]
  • Dodo Bird
    In the 20th century, the phrase "dead as a dodo" became popular
  • The Dodo bird, although fictionalized in popular movies such as “Ice Age,” were actual ancient creatures. Translated from Dutch, the word Dodo means "sluggard" or "plump arse."[5][10]
  • A giant dragonfly that lived 359-299 million years ago had a wingspan that measured 25.6 inches, making it the largest flying insect species in history.[5]
  • Georges Cuvier, the man who "discovered" extinction, worked at the Museum of Natural History. After working there for some time, he became so passionate about his work that he moved into the museum and lived on the grounds.[13]
  • Plants are actually one of the most vulnerable groups for extinction. Because they are not able to move as animals are when threatened, 68% of all species of plants on earth are endangered.[7]
  • Nearly 450 million years ago, most living things were still confined to water. A mass extinction that happened near this time changed the composition and lifestyle of animal and plant life forever.[13]
  • A conservation center in Panama houses tanks upon tanks upon tanks of endangered frogs. In order to gain entrance into the sterilized building, each frog must be baptized in bleach.[13]
  • The Arctodus simus, or “Giant Bear,” was large enough to look a human of average height directly in the eyes while standing on all fours. When standing on its hind legs, it reached 12 feet tall, which is approximately the height of two refrigerators stacked on each other. The Giant Bear conglomerated in California but went extinct 11,000 years ago.[5]
  • Conservation Project
    The process to place a species on the "Endangered Species List" can take up to one year of investigatory work by trained scientists
  • Historically, less than 1% of the species placed under the protection of the "Endangered Species Act" have gone extinct.[6]
  • On December 24, 1938, a fisherman in South Africa caught a peculiar looking fish later discovered to be the “coelacanth,” a fish which was believed to have become extinct 65 million years prior.[5]
  • The United States spends approximately $76 billion on conservation efforts of endangered animals and their environments annually.[4]
  • Endangered Animal Facts
    The hooded seal's form of blushing, flirting, or fighting (Doug Allen / naturepl.com)
  • The hooded seal, now endangered because of climate change, has an inflatable skull hood and nasal passageway. It can puff up its head to look like a 12-inch wide balloon.[2]
  • The purple frog, a native to India, was only officially discovered in 2003, although locals knew about them long before. They live 13 inches under the ground, making them difficult to track. They are currently believed to be highly endangered, but who can be sure?[2]
  • Although many animals have gone extinct because of human poaching, other species are at risk for extinction because humans will not eat them. For example, when people lost interest in eating the Guinea Hog as a source of bacon and ham, the species suddenly became threatened. One effective (but controversial) way of bringing attention to endangered animals is by advertising their delicious taste, putting them in animal farms, and then supplementing their growth for commercial use.[3]

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