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What Are the Best Known Extinct Species?

The Dodo is a well-known extinct bird.
Dinosaurs are among the best known extinct species.
Though commonly thought of as extinct, contemporary researchers believe that dinosaurs evolved into birds.
The now-extinct Caspian tiger resembled the Bengal tiger.
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  • Last Modified Date: 21 September 2014
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Although there are thousands of extinct species in the world, some are much better known than others. This popularity is sometimes based on the animal’s memorable appearance or significance in the evolutionary process. Another common reason for the popularity of some extinct animals is the repeated reference made to them in books, movies, television and natural history museums. Well-known extinct species include various kinds of dinosaurs, birds and exotic mammals.

Even though it became extinct about 65 million years ago, Tyrannosaurus Rex is probably the most renowned extinct species of all. The dinosaur weighed up to seven tons (approximately 6,350 kg) and was normally more than 43 feet (13 meters) long. This creature is considered to be the largest carnivore that ever walked the earth.

Extinct since 1844, the Great Auk is one of two well-known flightless birds on the list. This species was the only penguin that hailed from the Atlantic region, and fossils indicate it traveled as far south as the state of Florida in the United States. Overhunting resulted in the extinction of the Great Auk, also commonly referred to as a garefowl.

The other flightless bird on the most popular extinct species list is the Dodo. This bird, a relative of doves and pigeons, disappeared in the 17th century. It made its home on the island of Mauritius and subsisted on a strictly fruit-based diet.

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Famous for being the largest deer in history, the Irish Deer, also called Giant Deer, was also celebrated for having the largest antlers of any deer. The sprawling branched horn on the animal was often 12 feet (approximately 3.65 meters) across and could weigh in at a whopping 90 pounds (40.8 kg). History sometimes attributes this beast’s extinction 7,700 years ago to its antlers keeping it from averting predators, but the popular theory is that man hunted it into oblivion.

Two tigers are among the best known extinct species. The Tasmanian Tiger, which was last seen in 1936, holds the title of modern times’ largest carnivorous marsupial. The cat was native to Australia and New Guinea. More recently, around 1970, the Caspian Tiger became extinct. It was the third largest species of tiger in the world, and its appearance closely resembled the Bengal tiger often featured in today’s zoos.

Another member of the cat family, the Cave Lion, was one of the largest lions in history. Some historians claim this species ceased to exist more than 10,000 years ago and others maintain the Cave Lion disappeared only 2,000 years ago. A relative of the Cave Lion was reportedly found in 1985 in Germany.

Stellar’s Sea Cow, often referred to as the defenseless beast, resembled a very large seal. It grew up to 25.9 feet (7.9 meters) in length and could weigh up to 6,000 pounds (about 2,721 kg). It had a short history as it was discovered in 1741 and became an extinct species in 1768. Another cow on the extinct species list is the Auroch. The Auroch is generally thought to be one of Europe’s most notorious extinct animals. Despite laws demanding that any hunter of Aurochs be put to death to protect the species, the last one died in 1527 in a Polish forest.

Generally considered one of Africa’s most notable extinct animals, the Quagga may have one of the most interesting appearances of all on this list. Its markings clearly indicate that the animal was a crossbreed of a zebra and a horse, with stripes appearing on only half its body. The last Quagga reportedly passed away in an Amsterdam zoo in 1883.

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