Pictured is the red handfish, a close relative of the now-extinct smooth handfish, which existed in abundance in the waters around Australia just 200 years ago. Named after the uncanny resemblance to human arms and hands, the smooth handfish—which was declared extinct in 2020—also featured a very punk-rock mohawk-like spike on its head (just like its cousin shown here.) Currently, there is only one known preserved specimen of the extinct smooth handfish in the entire world.
Say What? Scientists Goofed and Accidentally Created a New Kind of Fish
Cause of Extinction: Although a definitive cause of extinction is not known, scientists speculate that habitat loss and destructive fishing of other sea-life (like scallops) had a hand in their demise.
Bramble Cay Melomys
Ian Bell / Wikimedia Commons
These little guys were officially declared extinct by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in 2015. Native to Bramble Cay, a small island near the northern side of the Great Barrier Reef, it’s reported that the rodents haven’t been spotted since way back in 2009. “Significantly, this probably represents the first recorded mammalian extinction due to anthropogenic climate change,” the Queensland state government said.
Read This Next: Scientists Clone Endangered Black-Footed Ferret Species
Cause of Extinction: Man-made climate change, which led to a loss of habitat and food.
Yangtze River Dolphin
China PhotosGetty Images
Also known as “baiji,” the Yangtze River dolphin was last seen in 2002. Four years later, a group of researchers traversed 2,000 miles along the Yangtze River to see if they could find one but to no avail. According to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation group (WDC), the baiji is the first dolphin species to become extinct due to humans.
Weirdly Militaristic Marine Mammals: Military Dolphins: Is North Korea Training Kamikaze Dolphins?
Cause of Extinction: Overfishing, pollution, loss of habitat, poaching, and boat traffic.
The Northern White Rhinoceros
TONY KARUMBAGetty Images
The last two living northern white rhinos in existence happen to both be female as the last male died in March of 2018. Sudan, the 45-year-old male, was under armed guard at Kenya’s Ol Pejeta Conservancy when he passed away from old age and an infection.
You Heard it Here First: The Bioengineering Gambit to Save the Northern White Rhino
The two females are also unable to give birth, making the likelihood of introducing a new generation of the species highly unlikely. Scientists are working on using harvested sex cells and in-vitro fertilization to bring forth a lab-created northern white rhino.
Cause of Extinction: Poaching has decimated this population and loss of habitat also helped drive the rhino to the brink of extinction.
The Spix Macaw
Thought to be extinct in the wild, the Spix Macaw currently exists in captivity with their numbers in the dismally low 60 to 80 range. The bird is also referred to as “Little Blue Macaw” because they’re known for their vibrant blue feathers.
What Now? More Than Half of Coffee Species Are in Danger of Extinction
Cause of Extinction: The Spix Macaw went extinct in the wild due to habitat destruction, illegal trapping, and trade.
Universal History ArchiveGetty Images
The Thylacine, a carnivore also referred to as the Tasmanian tiger and Tasmanian wolf, was a (mostly) nocturnal marsupial that preyed on rodents and kangaroos.
Haunting Footage: The Last Known Video of a Living Thylacine
Although Thylacines looked fierce, they were actually quite timid and, according to Live Science, “could be captured without a fight.” Reports of Thylacine sightings have been so frequent in the past century that it sparked an investigation as to the status of their existence.
Cause of Extinction: It is believed that Dingo populations threatened the Thylacine into extinction in addition to overhunting from humans.
The Passenger Pigeon
Portland Press HeraldGetty Images
Estimates say that the passenger pigeon population numbered in the millions—and possibly billions—when the first Europeans began settling in America. MentalFloss reports that Wisconsin was home to the largest known nesting site in the late 1800s.
Tweet Tweet: Why the Humble Bird Nest Is an Engineering Marvel
Cause of Extinction: Humans hunted the pigeon and consumed it to the point of extinction with the last known bird dying in captivity in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.
Frederick York / Wikimedia Commons
The Quagga was native to South Africa and went extinct in the late 19th century. For a long time, the quagga was thought to be its own species before it was discovered that it was closely related to the Plains Zebra and was, in fact, a subspecies of the zebra. Quaggas quite literally looked like a mashup between two animals—a zebra in the front thanks to set of characteristic stripes, and a horse in the rear.
Wow! You Can Now Smell a Flower That Went Extinct a Century Ago
Scientists are trying to resurrect the quagga and have seen some success via reverse engineering by selectively breeding zebras (who carry quagga genes).
Cause of Extinction: Humans hunted the quagga to extinction.
The Pyrenean Ibex
Joseph Wolf / Wikimedia Commons
The Pyrenean Ibex officially went extinct in 2000, before being “resurrected” nearly a decade later in 2009. Scientists used DNA taken from preserved epidermal samples to create a clone of a female Pyrenean Ibex, which was able to make it through gestation and even birth before dying shortly after of lung deformities.
Must Read: Tracking Endangered Species by Sound
Cause of Extinction: Extensive hunting during the 19th century.
The Golden Toad
Education ImagesGetty Images
The golden toad is not the only species to disappear in the past 40 years, but it just might be the brightest.
The small toad was last seen in 1989 in a Costa Rican rainforest before being declared extinct in 1994. It is believed that Chytridiomycosis, a fatal skin disease, decimated this toad population that was already vulnerable thanks to what Science is calling a “limited habitat and small population.”
Whoa: Living Robots Built from Frog Cells
Cause of Extinction: Pollution, global warming, and chytrid skin infections led to the extinction of this species.
Helle V. Goldman and Jon Winther-Hansen
One of several subspecies of leopard, the Zanzibar leopard made its home on the Zanzibar archipelago of Tanzania. It’s still unclear whether this large cat is technically extinct—there are occasional unconfirmed sightings.
Clever Girl: Resurrecting Extinct Animals Won’t Be as Fun as You Hoped
Cause of Extinction: The leopard went extinct thanks to the belief that these animals were kept by witches; for this reason, locals aggressively hunted them.
It didn’t help that the government was in on the campaign to exterminate the creatures. In the mid-90s, there was a short-lived conservation effort, but it was deemed too little, too late.
Update: In 2018, Animal Planet released footage of what it identified as a Zanzibar Leopard, but those claims have yet to be confirmed.
Paul E. Baker / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
A native of Maui, Hawaii, the Po’ouli, or black-faced honeycreeper, was only discovered in the 1970s. The birds inhabited the southwestern slope of Haleakala volcano. But the population declined rapidly, and by 1997 there were only three known Po’ouli left.
Read This Next: The 30 Strangest Birds on the Planet
Efforts to mate the remaining birds failed and the species was formally declared extinct seven years later.
Cause of Extinction: Habitat loss, along with disease, predators, and a decline in its food source—native tree snails—are all seen as reasons for the bird’s demise.
Madeiran Large White
DE AGOSTINI PICTURE LIBRARYGetty Images
The stunning Madeiran Large White butterfly was found in the valleys of the Laurisilva forests on Portugal’s Madeira Islands. The butterfly’s closest relative, the Large White, is common across Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Relatedly: What Is the Butterfly Effect?
Cause of Extinction: Loss of habitat due to construction, as well as pollution from agricultural fertilizers are two major causes of the species’ decline. While it hasn’t been officially declared extinct, the butterfly hasn’t been seen for decades.
The Carolina parakeet was the only bird of its kind native to the eastern portion of the U.S. The last Carolina parakeet died at the Cincinnati Zoo in February of 1918 soon after his mate, Lady Jane, passed.
Better Late Than Never? Getting Started in Birding
Cause of Extinction: The Smithsonian notes that while a specific reason doesn’t explain the parakeet’s extinction, it’s likely that deforestation and disease are what offed the brightly-colored birds. It also didn’t help that their feathers were coveted fashion fixtures for womens’ hats.
West African Black Rhino
Leon NealGetty Images
The majestic West African black rhino was declared extinct in 2006, after conservationists failed to find any in their last remaining habitat in Cameroon. The West African black rhino was one of four subspecies of rhinoceros.
Dive Deeper: 15 Incredible Facts About Rhinos
The photo of the one pictured here was taken in 2017 while the rhino was under sedation for a routine horn trimming (this is a preventive measure to deter poachers.)
Cause of Extinction: Poachers hunted the rhino for its horn, which is believed by some in Yemen and China to possess aphrodisiacal powers, leading to their extinction.
E. Theriot / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The Tecopa pupfish, a native of the hot springs of the Mojave Desert, has the distinction of being the first animal declared extinct under the provisions of the Endangered Species Act of 1973. The pupfish’s decline was precipitated when its natural habitat was encroached upon by developers.
We’ve Got You Covered: 9 Best Fish Tanks for Keeping Your Scaly Friends Happy
Cause of Extinction: The destruction of their natural habitat.
Falkland Islands Wolf
Windmill BooksGetty Images
The Falkland Islands wolf went extinct in the late 1800s and was also known as the Antarctic wolf and the Falkland Islands fox.
Fatal Thaw: 40,000-Year-Old Wolf Head Found in Siberia
These wolves were native to the Falklands off of Argentina and were quite isolated from the world until humans reached the islands and hunted them (kind of easily because the wolves were so friendly).
Scientists believe these wolves fed on penguins and other ground-nesting birds in addition to seal pups.
Cause of Extinction: Hunting.
Andries HoogerwerfWikimedia Commons
Similar in appearance to the Sumatran tiger, the Javan tiger was native to the Indonesian island of Java. In the 1800s, they were so common they were considered pests by island natives, but as the island was developed, their population dwindled. By the 1950s, only 20 tigers remained.
Wrong Tiger: Was the Famous German Tiger Tank Really That Great?
Cause of Extinction: Loss of habitat and agricultural development led to severe population decline. Conservation efforts in the 1940s and 1950s were unsuccessful due to a lack of adequate land and planning.
Round Island Burrowing Boa
University of Amsterdam
Native to Round Island, a tiny island off the coast of Mauritius, the Round Island Burrowing Boa preferred to live on the topsoil layers of volcanic slopes. It was once found on several other islands around Mauritius, but its population had dwindled by the 1940s, and it could only be found on Round Island after 1949. It was last seen in 1975.
More Interessssting Sssstories: These Snakes Take Their Prey Down in the Most Savage Way
Cause of Extinction: The introduction of non-native species of rabbits and goats to the island destroyed vegetation and upset the boa’s habitat, leading to its eventual extinction.
Pinta Island Tortoise
RODRIGO BUENDIAGetty Images
The Pinta Island tortoise was around when Darwin visited the Galapagos in 1835. Sadly, a male named Lonesome George (pictured), was the last purebred of this subspecies and passed in 2015.
Dive Deeper: After Saving His Species, Diego the Tortoise Returns Home
Cause of Extinction: Goats that humans introduced to Pinta Island who destroyed their habitats, rats (also introduced by humans) who preyed on young tortoises, and humans killing the tortoises for their meat.
Dutch Alcon Blue Butterfly
Sander van der Molen via Wikimedia Commons
This Dutch butterfly—a subspecies of the Alcon Blue—was found mainly in the grasslands of The Netherlands. While closely related species (pictured here) still exist in parts of Europe and Asia, the last Dutch Alcon Blue was seen in the wild in 1979.
Check This Out: Solar Panels Might Get More Efficient Thanks to a Butterfly
Cause of Extinction: Increases in farming and building had a negative impact on the Alcon Blue’s habitat and caused it to lose its main food source.
Schomburgk’s deer was native to Thailand and was named after German-born explorer, Sir Robert H. Schomburgk, who was knighted in 1844.
Must-Have: 7 Best Trail Cams for Capturing Nature
Some scientists believe that there may still be a few of these deer in the wild even though they were officially declared extinct in 2006 with the last known deer reportedly killed in captivity in 1938.
Cause of Extinction: Besides humans, Schomburgk’s deer were hunted by native tigers and leopards. Today, we only know of one mounted deer head which resides in Paris’ Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle.
The Dodo was a flightless bird native to Mauritius whose population began dwindling and eventually became extinct over the short course of a century when sailors began arriving on the East African island nation.
The last of the Dodos were seen in the 1660s, and because there really wasn’t an emphasis on specimen preservation, many of the remaining fossils were lost or destroyed.
Yikes: The Earth’s Sixth Mass Extinction Is Accelerating
Even though the Dodo went extinct more than 150 years ago, their story is important. People didn’t believe that God would take away a creature’s existence after having gone through the trouble of creating them, so no one was truly alarmed at their disappearance. This led people to believe that there were more Dodos tucked away somewhere in nature and so, specimens weren’t handled as carefully as they should have been. In fact, Dodo specimen damage and loss was common in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Cause of Extinction: Popular belief has sailors hunting and eating the Dodo to the point of extinction, but it’s more likely that the rats (and other animals) the sailors brought with them caused the Dodo’s decline. The BBC reports that rats likely ate Dodo eggs and other animals outcompeted the bird for food sources.
Daisy HernandezDaisy writes for Runner's World, Bicycling, and Popular Mechanics.