Our extinction crisis continues; 2013 allowed us to safely conclude that we will never again see the animals listed below (2012 version here).
The Formosan Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa brachyura) of Taiwan is now thought to be extinct. None have been seen in over thirty years, despite a recent and intensive 13-year effort to document one. We did just about everything we could to eliminate this animal; we destroyed their habitat, killed them for their skins, and got rid of the other animals they normally ate. They didn’t have a chance.
The Cape Verde Giant Skink (Chioninia coctei), which hasn’t been seen since 1912, has been declared extinct, although a jawbone from one of these lizards was found in some cat scat in 2005. However, since then the cat (i.e., house cat) population has increased substantially and, aided by rats and dogs, has likely wiped out the skink.
The Sri Lanka Spiny Eel (Macrognathus pentophthalmos) is probably extinct. As recently as 1980 the species was considered common but it was likely done in by a non-native species of fish that ate many of them.
The Eskimo Curlew (Numenius borealis) was once so abundant that the sizes of its flocks were compared to those of Passenger Pigeons. They now have something else in common. The last known Eskimo Curlew was observed in 1963; Canada is likely to decide it is officially extinct because it has been 50 years since one has been seen. Eskimo Curlews probably suffered from a decline in their locust prey as well as loss of habitat but the primary cause of extinction is thought to be overhunting. Indeed, the last known Eskimo Curlew was shot by a hunter in Barbados.
This year, scientists concluded that the Northern Darwin’s Frog (Rhinoderma rufum), known only from Chile, is extinct. Closely related to the Southern Darwin’s Frog (Rhinoderma darwinii), it was only recognized as a distinct species in 1975. The last one ever seen alive was found just five years later, in 1980. Fascinatingly, males of both of these frogs hold (er, held, in the case of R. rufum) their tadpoles inside of them, as if they were pregnant (think seahorses). Based on previous sightings of these species and intensive surveys where they were known to occur, a group of researchers from Chile and the UK estimated that R. rufum blinked out in 1982. They were cautious though, and suggest in their study that the species should be considered critically endangered (and only possibly extinct). Maybe some frogs are still hanging on somewhere.
The Santa Cruz Pupfish (Cyprinodon arcuatus) of Arizona has been declared extinct. This small fish was probably once found in a few small wetlands that disappeared due to water management practices that dried them up. The last (and only?) spring known to harbor the species was altered into a pond and canal many years ago. The altered habitats were then invaded by predatory bass, which did their part by eating a bunch of pupfish.
A freshwater shrimp (Macrobrachium leptodactylus) from Indonesia found once in 1888 and never since has been declared extinct. The area where the shrimp was discovered has been heavily developed.
The Scioto Madtom (Noturus trautmani), a small catfish known from Ohio, has been declared extinct. The species hasn’t been found since 1957. Habitat degradation is the likely cause: runoff and increased siltation degraded the streams the madtom called home.
Two butterflies known only from South Florida, the Zestos Skipper (Epargyreus zestos oberon) and the Rockland Grass Skipper (Hesperia meskei pinocayo) are likely extinct. Habitat loss and modification are probably to blame for the extinction of these two butterflies.
The Western Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis longipes) was declared extinct in 2011 but for some reason it received a lot of press in late 2013. Here is a comprehensive breakdown of how we lost this magnificent beast.
It is just unfathomable, if not unconscionable, that we are responsible for causing a single species to completely disappear from the planet forever. Yet, we continue to do so over and over again. Extinct species have no future, they are gone to us and everyone that comes after us.
Let’s hope that our 2014 list is shorter than this year’s. Did I leave something out? Let me know below. To learn about species on the brink of extinction, do not miss John Platt’s excellent blog: Extinction Countdown.
Check Out The Following Scientific Article For More on Darwin’s Frogs:
Soto-Azat C, Valenzuela-Sánchez A, Collen B, Rowcliffe JM, Veloso A, & Cunningham AA (2013). The population decline and extinction of Darwin’s frogs. PloS one, 8 (6) PMID: 23776705