A recent New York Times Magazine article “The Mammoth Cometh” describes how scientists are trying to bring extinct animals back from the dead.
This is based on research presented last year at a National Geographic-sponsored TEDx conference, where scientists met to discuss which animals would be good candidates for, as they called it “de-extinction.”
They chose the animals using the following criteria: Are the species desirable — do they hold an important ecological function or are they beloved by humans? Are the species practical choices — do we have access to tissue that could give us good quality DNA samples or germ cells to reproduce the species? And are they able to be reintroduced to the wild — are the habitats in which they live available and do we know why they went extinct in the first place?
But, this still leaves plenty of other animals on the table. The list of candidates is actually pretty long, considering.
The Carolina Parakeet was the only parrot species native to the eastern United States. The last wild specimen died in 1904 in Florida. There are multiple reasons for its extinction, but a contributing factor was the demand for its colourful feathers to decorate ladies' hats.
This beautiful bird is the Cuban Macaw. It lived in Cuba and was the last species of Caribbean macaw to go extinct, due to deforestation from human settlement. The last ones died off before the 1900s.
The mythical Aurochs is not a myth at all actually. It is the ancestor of domestic cattle and lived throughout Europe, Asia, and North Africa. They died off in 1627.
The Dodo is known for being really dumb -- but really it was just fearless because it evolved without any natural predators. Humans who arrived on its home island, Mauritius, took advantage of this and killed them all for food.
This cute little guy is the Dusky Seaside Sparrow, which was found in Southern Florida. It was officially declared extinct in 1990 after humans started spraying the insecticide DDT on its habitat to kill off mosquitoes.
The Labrador Duck was always rare but disappeared between 1850 and 1870. Supposedly it didn't taste good, so it wasn't hunted extensively for food, so its extinction isn't fully explained.
The Heath Hen lived in coastal North America up until 1932. They made for delicious dinners, and were likely the foundation of the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving.
The Ivory-billed Woodpecker lived in 'virgin forests' of the southeastern United states, but there hasn't been a confirmed sighting of the bird since the 1940s. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology even offered a $US50,000 reward for someone who could lead researchers to a living specimen.
The Imperial Woodpecker may actually still be alive, but hasn't been seen in more than 50 years. It's presumed extinct because its entire habitat, which was in Mexico, has been destroyed.
The Great Auk went extinct in the mid-19th century. They lived in the North Atlantic from Northern Spain through Canada. They died off because of a combination of climate changes during the Little Ice Age that brought predatory polar bears into their territories, and human hunting.
Frozen carcasses of the Woolly Mammoth allow scientists access to well-preserved DNA from these prehistoric giant animals, related to elephants. The last isolated population of woolly mammoths lived on Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean until 4,000 years ago.
The Mastodon is an extinct species related to elephants that lived in North and Central America. They went extinct 12,000 years ago.
The Moa were a giant flightless bird from New Zealand that reached 12 feet tall and weighed more than 500 pounds. They died out because of over hunting by the Maori by 1400.
This giant, flightless Elephant bird was found only on the island of Madagascar and died out by the 17th century. It would have been 10 feet tall and weighed 880 pounds.
Nobody wants more pigeons ... except scientists that is. The Passenger Pigeon died out after living in enormous flocks throughout the 20th century. It was hunted as food for slaves on a massive and mechanised scale until the last one died in 1914.
This extinct species of plains Zebra, the Quagga, once lived in South Africa. The last wild one was shot in 1870 and the last in captivity died in 1883.
The iconic Saber-toothed cat, Smilodon, is also on the list. It died out about 10,000 years ago due to climate changes at the end of the last Ice Age.
This freshwater dolphin is known as the Baiji and lived in the Yangtze River in China. It was nicknamed the 'Goddess of the Yangtze,' but died off as China industrialized and used the river for fishing, transportation, and hydroelectricity. Expeditions to find the dolphin in 2006 turned up nothing.
The Thylacine, or Tasmanian Tiger, is the only marsupial to make the list. It lived in Australia, Tasmania and New Guinea until the 1960s.
The Steller's sea cow is related to the manatee and dugong, the two remaining species of sea cow. They were once abundant in the North Pacific, but within 27 years were hunted to extinction.
The Caribbean monk seal was hunted to extinction for use as oil, and they were out-competed for fish (their main food source) by humans. The last individual was seen in 1952.
The Huia was a large species of New Zealand wattlebird. It went extinct in the 20th century because of hunting to make specimens for museums and private collectors. The female had a long, curved beak.
The Moho are a genus of extinct birds from Hawaii. Most of them died out because of habitat loss and hunting. The Hawaiian Moho seen here died out in 1934.
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