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13 Animals That Have Recently Gone Extinct

When an animal goes extinct, it means the species has died out and there are none left on earth. Most people think of dinosaurs or other animals from pre-civilization eras when they think of extinction. However animals are unfortunately still going extinct today. Scientists take labeling a species extinct seriously, and will continue to search for a species in the wild for years after the last known sighting before calling it quits.

While there are plenty of stories of conservation efforts succeeding to save endangered species, some species fall through the gaps and aren’t saved in time. Over the last 5 centuries, it is estimated that over 900 species have become extinct worldwide and over 16,000 species have become threatened with extinction.

As a tribute to the species we’ve lost, here’s a list of 13 animals that have recently gone extinct.

13 Animals That Have Recently Gone Extinct

Here are 13 animals you sadly won’t find in the wild anymore. Read on to learn about why they became extinct and the years they were officially declared extinct.

1. Ivory-billed woodpecker

Image credit: Arthur A. Allen & Jerry A. Payne / Wikicommons / CC BY 3.0 U.S.

Scientific name: Campephilus principalis

Year declared extinct: 2021

The ivory-billed woodpecker used to be the third-largest woodpecker worldwide and lived in the forests of 13 states, including Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, and Missouri. They are black and white birds with a pointed crest that’s bright red on males.

They were named for their large white colored bill, which is unusual among other North American woodpeckers. Their population started declining significantly by the mid to late 1800’s due to deforestation and logging in their habitat.

The last proven sighting was in 1944. Stories have persisted for years since with many efforts to find them, especially in the southeastern U.S. After many years of no proof, they have officially been declared extinct.


2. Guam Flying Fox

Guam Flying Fox | image by David Worthington USFWS via Wikimedia Commons

Scientific name: Pteropus tokudae

Year declared extinct: 2021

Guam flying foxes, also known as little Mariana fruit bats, were native to Guam where they roosted in limestone forests and foraged on the tropical fruits. This fruit bat was last observed in 1968 and officially declared extinct in September 2021.

When these bats had a good population, they were actually hunted by humans for food. Over harvesting of the bats could have contributed to their extinction.

Another problem for the bats was the introduction of the brown tree snake to their habitat, which became a fierce predator. Loss of habitat from military and agriculture activities was likely another contributing factor.


3. Bachman’s warbler

Illustration of Bachman’s Warbler by Louis Agassiz Fuertes via Wikimedia Commons

Scientific name: Vermivora bachmanii

Year declared extinct: 2021

The Bachman’s warbler was a migrating songbird that bred in the southeastern and midwestern U.S. and spent the winters in Cuba. They were considered frequent visitors to their spring breeding grounds between 1880 – 1910, but then things went downhill and they were scarce by the 1930’s.

The last official sighting of Bachman’s warbler was in the 1960s, although there is a debated sighting that occurred in 1988 in Louisiana.

These warblers mostly lived in cane thickets and swampy blackberry habitats, so the swamp draining and clearcutting of their habitat are the main reasons for their extinction. It is also thought the winter hurricane that hit Cuba during 1932 could have severely damaged the population.

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4. Bridled white-eye

Bridled White-Eye | image by Peter via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Zosterops conspicillatus

Year declared extinct: 2021

The bridled white-eye was an olive colored bird, about 4 inches long, and had a distinctive white ring around the eyes. They were native to the island of Guam where they lived in moist lowland forests and plantations.

Unfortunately like the Guam flying fox mentioned previously, the bridled white-eye fell victim to the brown tree snake, an invasive species. It is believed the brown tree snake was introduced to Guam after World War 2 and its population exploded. This snake became a predator to the white-eye at every turn, consuming their eggs, hatchlings, and adults.


5. San Marcos gambusia

Scientific name: Gambusia georgei

Year declared extinct: 2021

The San Marcos gambusia was a small one-inch fish native to a specific region of Texas. In fact, the only place they were found was the clear spring waters of the San Marcos River. It is believed that they required the clean and clear water with little temperature variability for survival.

There are about 40 species of gambusia, and interestingly they don’t lay eggs like most fish species but give birth to live young.

The population estimate as of 1969 was less than 1,000 fish. Reduced flow of the spring water and introduction of pollution, including herbicide that was sprayed along the river, had a negative impact on the specific environmental conditions they required. Additionally, introduction of another gambusia species and aquatic plants may have delt the final blow. No specimens of the San Marcos gambusia have been seen since 1983.


6. Flat pigtoe mussel

Endangered freshwater mussels | image by USFWS northwest region via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Pleurobema marshalli

Year declared extinct: 2021

Freshwater mussels, such as the flat pigtoe, are the most endangered group of living organisms in the U.S. This is despite being the longest living invertebrates, that can survive up to 100 years. The flat pigtoe (also known as Marshall’s mussel), was native to rivers in Alabama and Mississippi, but has not been spotted since 1980.

Water pollution has contributed significantly to their decline and in September 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared seven other mussel species extinct, along with the flat pigtoe.

Mussels constantly filter water through their system, thus are sensitive to pollutants in the water. They are often considered a keystone species and are looked at to indicate the overall health of an ecosystem. Pictured above is an example of several endangered freshwater mussels, including another type of pigtoe, the shiny pigtoe mussel.


7. Splendid poison frog

Splendid Poison Frog Specimen | image by Brian Gratwicke via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Oophaga speciosa

Year declared extinct: 2020

The brightly red colored splendid poison frog was native to western Panama, living in humid lowland forests. They were a species of poison dart frog, which are known for their bright colors and the toxic substance they secrete through their skin.

Loss of habitat through deforestation and human activities, such as construction, rail lines, urbanization, and logging contributed to their extinction. However, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists the final cause of extinction as a 1996 fungal outbreak that likely killed the majority of the remaining population.

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8. Smooth handfish

Spotted Handfish (similar species to Smooth Handfish) | image by CSRIO via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 3.0

Scientific name: Sympterichthys unipennis

Year declared extinct: 2020 (although in 2021 their status was changed to “data deficient” so it is still up in the air)

Native to the Tasmanian coast, specifically the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, the weird-looking smooth handfish is one of the first modern-day marine fish to become extinct. It was thought to be a common species in that area as of an 1802 survey.

While it is not known when the population began to crash, many believe it was between the 19th and mid-20th centuries. During this time the channel was dredged during intensive fishing for scallops and oysters, destroying the ocean floor habitat the handfish needed.

There are about 14 known species of handfish living in the coastal waters of Australia and Tasmania. They are known for their ability to walk on the ocean floor with its front fins that resemble small arms with hands. It also has a mohawk-like fin on top of its head. Many species are currently endangered.


9. Chiriqui harlequin frog

Chiriqui Harlequin Frog | image by Brian Gratwicke via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Atelopus chiriquiensis

Year declared extinct: 2020

Although the Chiriqui harlequin frog hasn’t been seen in years, it wasn’t reassessed by the ICUN until 2019 and declared extinct in December 2020. Also known as Lewis’s stubfoot toad, they were native to rainforest streams in areas of Costa Rica and western Panama.

These frogs marked with a distinctive orange-red stripe, had hidden poison glands on their head and body. Habitat loss and threats from introduced trout populations led to their decline. Their extinction is also linked to the fungus disease chytridiomycosis that impacts amphibians. They have not been seen since the mid to late 1990’s.


10. Bramble Cay melomys

Bramble cay melomys | image by Ian Bell via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 3.0 AU

Scientific name: Melomys rubicola

Year extinct: 2019

The Bramble Cay melomys was a rodent species native to the small reef island Bramble Cay, in the northern tip of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Melomys live in northern Australia, and while the exact path is unknown, at one point a few made it to the island of Bramble Cay and flourished, becoming a distinct species.

The last sighting was in 2009 before the IUCN declared them extinct in May 2015 and the Australian government finally declared them extinct in 2019.

The Queensland State government stated this rodent was the first documented mammal that became extinct due to human-made climate change. Sea level rise and intensity of storms and storm surges not only directly impacted the melomys, but also reduced the vegetation that they depended on.


11. Po’o-uli (black-faced honeycreeper)

Po’ouli | image by USFWS via Wikimedia Commons

Scientific name: Melamprosops phaeosoma

Year declared extinct: 2019

Native to the Hawaiian island of Maui, the po’o-uli is a member of the honeycreeper family of birds. They were first discovered in the early to mid 1970’s, and only lived on the eastern side of Maui where it is wetter.

Unfortunately by 1985 it is estimated 90% of their population had already been lost. Despite setting aside land for a reserve and trying to encourage breeding between the last few birds left, the population never increased.

The last bird living in captivity died in 2004 and efforts to find the remaining two known to exist on the island have been unsuccessful. Scientists theorize that invasive species such as cats and mongooses, habitat destruction, and the spread of disease-carrying mosquitoes led to their extinction.

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12. Chinese paddlefish

Chinese Paddlefish | image by Wei Qiwei via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientific name: Psephurus gladius

Year declared extinct: 2019

Despite searches between 2017 and 2018, the last Chinese paddlefish seen alive was in 2003. In 2019, scientists declared the species as extinct. Native to China’s Yangtze River, these fish were the largest freshwater fish worldwide and known to have existed for 200 million years. The Chinese paddlefish spent part of its adult life at sea, then returned to migrate upriver to spawn.

Their extinction has been due to a reduction in their habitat. The building of dams along the river fragmented the population and blocked the fish from swimming back upstream to spawn. Overfishing also contributed.


13. Northern white rhinoceros

White rinoceros | image by Hein waschefort via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 3.0

Scientific name: Ceratotherium simum

Year extinct: 2018

The northern white rhinoceros is a subspecies of white rhinoceros that lived in countries such as Chad, Sudan, and Uganda. The main reason for their extinction is because they were poached for their horns, which were used in traditional Chinese medicines.

While there are still two females alive in captivity, this species was declared extinct in 2018 when the last male in captivity died and scientists haven’t been able to help repopulate the species with the remaining females.

About Patricia Greene

Patricia is a wildlife enthusiast that loves traveling and learning about wildlife all over North America and the world. Aside from being writer for Wildlife Informer, she's an avid bird watcher as well as the owner of several pet reptiles. She enjoys visiting national parks and seeing new sights in her free time.