palaeopedia
palaeopedia:

The giant Moa, Dinornis (= terrible bird) (1843)
Phylum : ChordataClass : AvesSuperorder : PaleognathaeOrder : DinornithiformesFamily : DinornithidaeGenus : DinornisSpecies : D. novaezealandiae, D. robustus
Extinct in 1500
3,6 m high and 240 kg (size)
New Zealand (map)
Although Dinornis wasn’t the heaviest prehistoric bird that ever lived—that honor belongs to Aepyornis, or the Elephant Bird—it was definitely the tallest, with some individuals attaining 12 feet in height, about twice as tall as an adult human. Considering its size and bulk, though, Dinornis seems to have been a relatively gentle creature, subsisting entirely on vegetation, unlike its omnivorous or carnivorous giant bird cousins.
Like other giant birds of the Pleistocene epoch, Dinornis was doomed by the fact that it evolved in a relatively isolated environment (New Zealand) without any natural predators, and thus without the need to develop natural defenses. The arrival of human beings in about the 10th century AD spelled its doom, as individuals were easily hunted down (and their eggs stolen and eaten) over the ensuing centuries.

palaeopedia:

The giant Moa, Dinornis (= terrible bird) (1843)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Aves
Superorder : Paleognathae
Order : Dinornithiformes
Family : Dinornithidae
Genus : Dinornis
Species : D. novaezealandiae, D. robustus

  • Extinct in 1500
  • 3,6 m high and 240 kg (size)
  • New Zealand (map)

Although Dinornis wasn’t the heaviest prehistoric bird that ever lived—that honor belongs to Aepyornis, or the Elephant Bird—it was definitely the tallest, with some individuals attaining 12 feet in height, about twice as tall as an adult human. Considering its size and bulk, though, Dinornis seems to have been a relatively gentle creature, subsisting entirely on vegetation, unlike its omnivorous or carnivorous giant bird cousins.

Like other giant birds of the Pleistocene epoch, Dinornis was doomed by the fact that it evolved in a relatively isolated environment (New Zealand) without any natural predators, and thus without the need to develop natural defenses. The arrival of human beings in about the 10th century AD spelled its doom, as individuals were easily hunted down (and their eggs stolen and eaten) over the ensuing centuries.

Tasmania tiger relative more like a quoll
by Signe Cane
Tasmanian tiger’s ancient relative had more powerful jaws than its size would suggest
UNLIKE THE TASMANIAN tiger, whose relatively weak jaw strength meant it was better suited to hunting small animals, an ancient relative was capable of taking down prey larger than itself.
Australian researchers have discovered that, Dickson’s thylacine (Nimbacinus dicksoni), an ancient cousin of the Tasmanian tiger, had a powerful bite capable of subduing much larger prey than its own body weight.
"The biomechanical performance of Nimbacinus is more similar to that of dasyurids - such as quolls - than of thylacinids. That would suggest it hunted a large variety of prey,” says zoologist Marie Attard from the University of New England in Armidale.
"In contrast, the iconic Tasmanian tiger was considerably more specialised than large living dasyurids and Nimbacinus, and was likely more restricted in the range of prey it could hunt, making it more vulnerable to extinction,” says Marie…
(read more: Australian Geographic)
Illustration of Mid Miocene N. dicksoni. Image Credit: Anne Musser

Tasmania tiger relative more like a quoll

by Signe Cane

Tasmanian tiger’s ancient relative had more powerful jaws than its size would suggest

UNLIKE THE TASMANIAN tiger, whose relatively weak jaw strength meant it was better suited to hunting small animals, an ancient relative was capable of taking down prey larger than itself.

Australian researchers have discovered that, Dickson’s thylacine (Nimbacinus dicksoni), an ancient cousin of the Tasmanian tiger, had a powerful bite capable of subduing much larger prey than its own body weight.

"The biomechanical performance of Nimbacinus is more similar to that of dasyurids - such as quolls - than of thylacinids. That would suggest it hunted a large variety of prey,” says zoologist Marie Attard from the University of New England in Armidale.

"In contrast, the iconic Tasmanian tiger was considerably more specialised than large living dasyurids and Nimbacinus, and was likely more restricted in the range of prey it could hunt, making it more vulnerable to extinction,” says Marie…

(read more: Australian Geographic)

Illustration of Mid Miocene N. dicksoni. Image Credit: Anne Musser

lostbeasts

anxiouswren:

I’m back! I have an MFA degree and a sunburn from a wonderful week in Disneyworld, and I am looking forward to all that life offers a bird-crazy illustrator!

I have posted a few of these, but I thought it would make sense to have them all in one post. This is the result of my final project for my MFA—a series of recently extinct birds.  Someday I hope I can make this into a full-fledged (pun unintended) book! It was a great learning experience and I look forward to continuing work on it.

New Research Finds That Humans Are Responsible for Extinction of Giant Birds on New Zealand
by Jeremy Hance
Moas were a diverse group of flightless birds that ruled over New Zealand up to the arrival of humans, the biggest of these mega-birds stood around 3.5 meters (12 feet) with outstretched neck. While the whole moa family—comprised of nine species—vanished shortly after the arrival of people on New Zealand in the 13th Century, scientists have long debated why the big birds went extinct. Some theories contend that the birds were already in decline due to environmental changes or volcanic activity before humans first stepped on New Zealand’s beaches. But a study released today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) finds no evidence of said decline, instead pointing the finger squarely at us.  To find the moa’s smoking gun, scientists analyzed two different sets of DNA from 281 specimens made up of four species: the South Island giant moa (Dinornis robustus), the biggest of the family; the heavy-footed moa (Pachyornis elephantopus); the eastern moa (Emeus crassus); and the coastal moa (Euryapteryx curtus). Instead of showing a slow, genetic decline, the DNA told a different story: moas were thriving even as humans arrived…
(read more: MongaBay)
illustration by MIchael B.H./Wikimedia Commons

New Research Finds That Humans Are Responsible for Extinction of Giant Birds on New Zealand

by Jeremy Hance

Moas were a diverse group of flightless birds that ruled over New Zealand up to the arrival of humans, the biggest of these mega-birds stood around 3.5 meters (12 feet) with outstretched neck. While the whole moa family—comprised of nine species—vanished shortly after the arrival of people on New Zealand in the 13th Century, scientists have long debated why the big birds went extinct. Some theories contend that the birds were already in decline due to environmental changes or volcanic activity before humans first stepped on New Zealand’s beaches. But a study released today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) finds no evidence of said decline, instead pointing the finger squarely at us.

To find the moa’s smoking gun, scientists analyzed two different sets of DNA from 281 specimens made up of four species: the South Island giant moa (Dinornis robustus), the biggest of the family; the heavy-footed moa (Pachyornis elephantopus); the eastern moa (Emeus crassus); and the coastal moa (Euryapteryx curtus). Instead of showing a slow, genetic decline, the DNA told a different story: moas were thriving even as humans arrived…

(read more: MongaBay)

illustration by MIchael B.H./Wikimedia Commons

Fossil porpoise has a chin for the ages (PhysOrg) - Scientists have identified a new species of ancient porpoise with a chin length unprecedented among known mammals and suggest the animal used the tip of its face to probe the seabed for food.
Related to living crown porpoises, the extinct Californian porpoise, Semirostrum ceruttii, had an extension of its jaw called a symphysis—the analogue of the human chin—that measured 85 centimeters in the best-preserved specimen, researchers said. The typical symphysis of a crown porpoise measures one or two centimeters…
(read more)illustration by  Bobby Boessenecker

Fossil porpoise has a chin for the ages

(PhysOrg) - Scientists have identified a new species of ancient porpoise with a chin length unprecedented among known mammals and suggest the animal used the tip of its face to probe the seabed for food.

Related to living crown porpoises, the extinct Californian , Semirostrum ceruttii, had an extension of its jaw called a symphysis—the analogue of the human chin—that measured 85 centimeters in the best-preserved specimen, researchers said. The typical symphysis of a crown porpoise measures one or two centimeters…

(read more)

illustration by  Bobby Boessenecker

Project Passenger Pigeon
On the 100th anniversary of one of history’s most numerous birds becoming extinct, conservationists hope to help prevent other common species at risk from following the same path.
by Barry Yeoman
In 1834 a geologist named George William Featherstonbaugh was traveling through the American South when he came across a migration of passenger pigeons, at the time the most plentiful bird on the continent. “Flocks of them many miles long came across the country, one flight succeeding to another, obscuring the daylight,” he wrote. “When such myriads of timid birds as the wild pigeon are on the wing, often wheeling and performing evolutions almost as complicated as pyrotechnic movements, and creating whirlwinds as they move, they present an image of the most fearful power. Our horse, Missouri, at such times, has been so cowed by them, that he would stand still and tremble in his harness.”
Seventy years later the passenger pigeon was extinct, the victim of such savage hunting of adults and squabs alike that the birds could no longer reproduce enough to keep up. The development of the telegraph and railroad helped create an industry of itinerant pigeon hunters who followed the flocks and killed and shipped the birds by the millions for sale as food in urban markets. The pigeons also suffered from the human belief that our own activity couldn’t possibly wipe out such an abundant species.
The last passenger pigeon, a female named Martha, died around September 1, 1914, at the Cincinnati Zoo, where she had lived her entire 29 or so years. Now, during the centennial of Martha’s death, a group of enthusiasts is planning a year of commemorations. They hope to educate the public not just about the pigeon but also about the value of wildlife conservation and our role in preventing natural disasters, including extinctions…
(read more: Audubon Magazine)
photo: Amy Evanstad/Flickr

Project Passenger Pigeon

On the 100th anniversary of one of history’s most numerous birds becoming extinct, conservationists hope to help prevent other common species at risk from following the same path.

by Barry Yeoman

In 1834 a geologist named George William Featherstonbaugh was traveling through the American South when he came across a migration of passenger pigeons, at the time the most plentiful bird on the continent. “Flocks of them many miles long came across the country, one flight succeeding to another, obscuring the daylight,” he wrote. “When such myriads of timid birds as the wild pigeon are on the wing, often wheeling and performing evolutions almost as complicated as pyrotechnic movements, and creating whirlwinds as they move, they present an image of the most fearful power. Our horse, Missouri, at such times, has been so cowed by them, that he would stand still and tremble in his harness.”

Seventy years later the passenger pigeon was extinct, the victim of such savage hunting of adults and squabs alike that the birds could no longer reproduce enough to keep up. The development of the telegraph and railroad helped create an industry of itinerant pigeon hunters who followed the flocks and killed and shipped the birds by the millions for sale as food in urban markets. The pigeons also suffered from the human belief that our own activity couldn’t possibly wipe out such an abundant species.

The last passenger pigeon, a female named Martha, died around September 1, 1914, at the Cincinnati Zoo, where she had lived her entire 29 or so years. Now, during the centennial of Martha’s death, a group of enthusiasts is planning a year of commemorations. They hope to educate the public not just about the pigeon but also about the value of wildlife conservation and our role in preventing natural disasters, including extinctions…

(read more: Audubon Magazine)

photo: Amy Evanstad/Flickr

The last captive Carolina Parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) died at the Cincinnati Zoo 96 years ago, on February 21, 1918.  The Carolina Parakeet was the only parrot species native to the eastern United States. It went extinct presumably due to habitat loss and persecution by humans.  This specimen from the Smithsonian Division of Birds collection was one of the last surviving birds. It was born in captivity in 1902. More about this species: Encyclopedia of LifeImage by Christina A. Gebhard via National Museum of Natural History Image Collection 

The last captive Carolina Parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis) died at the Cincinnati Zoo 96 years ago, on February 21, 1918.

The Carolina Parakeet was the only parrot species native to the eastern United States. It went extinct presumably due to habitat loss and persecution by humans.

This specimen from the Smithsonian Division of Birds collection was one of the last surviving birds. It was born in captivity in 1902.

More about this species: Encyclopedia of Life

Image by Christina A. Gebhard via National Museum of Natural History Image Collection 

paleoillustration
paleoillustration:

Maija Karala: “Inspired by the recent news about living crocodilians routinely climbing trees, here’s the recently extinct New Caledonian terrestrial crocodile Mekosuchus inexpectatus basking on a branch. That, and a few other organisms.
The little lizard thing on the lower branch is a crested gecko (Correlophus ciliatus). The plants pictured include:
Asplenium sp. - the bird’s nest fern, Austrogramme marginata, Nepenthes sp. - the pitcher plant, Dendrobium ngoyense - the yellow orchid, D. masarangense - the little white orchid, Amyema scandens - the weird red parasitic vine, Tmesipteris sp.
There are no leaves or flowers of the actual tree visible, but judging by the obligate symbiont fungi (Podoserpula miranda, only described in 2013) it must be the endemic oak gum (Arillastrum gummiferum).
In case I sound too smart, don’t worry. I have no idea whether all these species live in the same habitats or even in the same part of New Caledonia. And they’re probably not all epiphytes. I just stumbled upon them and liked them. I could not even find names for all the plants, but they’re drawn after photos people have taken in the forests of New Caledonia.”

paleoillustration:

Maija Karala: “Inspired by the recent news about living crocodilians routinely climbing trees, here’s the recently extinct New Caledonian terrestrial crocodile Mekosuchus inexpectatus basking on a branch. That, and a few other organisms.

The little lizard thing on the lower branch is a crested gecko (Correlophus ciliatus). The plants pictured include:

Asplenium sp. - the bird’s nest fern, Austrogramme marginata, Nepenthes sp. - the pitcher plant, Dendrobium ngoyense - the yellow orchid, D. masarangense - the little white orchid, Amyema scandens - the weird red parasitic vine, Tmesipteris sp.

There are no leaves or flowers of the actual tree visible, but judging by the obligate symbiont fungi (Podoserpula miranda, only described in 2013) it must be the endemic oak gum (Arillastrum gummiferum).

In case I sound too smart, don’t worry. I have no idea whether all these species live in the same habitats or even in the same part of New Caledonia. And they’re probably not all epiphytes. I just stumbled upon them and liked them. I could not even find names for all the plants, but they’re drawn after photos people have taken in the forests of New Caledonia.”

Excerpt from The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
Writer Elizabeth Kolbert travels the globe investigating evidence that a mass extinction is underway.
The Icelandic Institute of Natural History occupies a new building on a lonely hillside outside Reykjavik. The building has a tilted roof and tilted glass walls and looks a bit like the prow of a ship. It was designed as a research facility, with no public access, which means that a special appointment is needed to see any of the specimens in the institute’s collection. These specimens, as I learned on the day of my own appointment, include: a stuffed tiger, a stuffed kangaroo, and a cabinet full of stuffed birds of paradise.
The reason I’d arranged to visit the institute was to see its great auk. Iceland enjoys the dubious distinction of being the bird’s last known home, and the specimen I’d come to look at was killed somewhere in the country—no one is sure of the exact spot—in the summer of 1821…
(read more: Audubon Magazine)
image of Great Auks by John James Audubon

Excerpt from The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History

Writer Elizabeth Kolbert travels the globe investigating evidence that a mass extinction is underway.

The Icelandic Institute of Natural History occupies a new building on a lonely hillside outside Reykjavik. The building has a tilted roof and tilted glass walls and looks a bit like the prow of a ship. It was designed as a research facility, with no public access, which means that a special appointment is needed to see any of the specimens in the institute’s collection. These specimens, as I learned on the day of my own appointment, include: a stuffed tiger, a stuffed kangaroo, and a cabinet full of stuffed birds of paradise.

The reason I’d arranged to visit the institute was to see its great auk. Iceland enjoys the dubious distinction of being the bird’s last known home, and the specimen I’d come to look at was killed somewhere in the country—no one is sure of the exact spot—in the summer of 1821…

(read more: Audubon Magazine)

image of Great Auks by John James Audubon

palaeopedia
palaeopedia:

The Baiji, Lipotes vexillifer (1918)
Phylum : ChordataClass : MammaliaOrder : CetaceaSuborder : OdontocetiSuperfamily : LipotoideaFamily : LipotidaeGenus : LipotesSpecies : L. vexillifer
Critically endangered
2,3 m long and 230 kg (size)
China (map)
Fossil records suggest that the dolphin first appeared 25 million years ago and migrated from the Pacific Ocean to the Yangtze River 20 million years ago. It was one of four species of dolphins known to have made fresh water their exclusive habitat. The other three species, including the boto and the La Plata dolphin, have survived in the Río de la Plata and Amazon rivers in South America and the Ganges and Indus rivers on the Indian subcontinent.
It is estimated that there were 5,000 baiji when they were described in the ancient dictionary Erya circa 3rd century BC. A traditional Chinese story describes the baiji as the reincarnation of a princess who had been drowned by her family after refusing to marry a man she did not love. Regarded as a symbol of peace and prosperity, the dolphin was nicknamed the “Goddess of the Yangtze.”
In the 1950s, the population was estimated at 6,000 animals, but declined rapidly over the subsequent five decades. Only a few hundred were left by 1970. Then the number dropped down to 400 by the 1980s and then to 13 in 1997 when a full-fledged search was conducted. Now the most endangered cetacean in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the baiji was last sighted in August 2004, though there was a possible sighting in 2007. It is listed as an endangered species by the U.S. government under the Endangered Species Act. It is now thought to be extinct.

palaeopedia:

The Baiji, Lipotes vexillifer (1918)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Mammalia
Order : Cetacea
Suborder : Odontoceti
Superfamily : Lipotoidea
Family : Lipotidae
Genus : Lipotes
Species : L. vexillifer

  • Critically endangered
  • 2,3 m long and 230 kg (size)
  • China (map)

Fossil records suggest that the dolphin first appeared 25 million years ago and migrated from the Pacific Ocean to the Yangtze River 20 million years ago. It was one of four species of dolphins known to have made fresh water their exclusive habitat. The other three species, including the boto and the La Plata dolphin, have survived in the Río de la Plata and Amazon rivers in South America and the Ganges and Indus rivers on the Indian subcontinent.

It is estimated that there were 5,000 baiji when they were described in the ancient dictionary Erya circa 3rd century BC. A traditional Chinese story describes the baiji as the reincarnation of a princess who had been drowned by her family after refusing to marry a man she did not love. Regarded as a symbol of peace and prosperity, the dolphin was nicknamed the “Goddess of the Yangtze.”

In the 1950s, the population was estimated at 6,000 animals, but declined rapidly over the subsequent five decades. Only a few hundred were left by 1970. Then the number dropped down to 400 by the 1980s and then to 13 in 1997 when a full-fledged search was conducted. Now the most endangered cetacean in the world, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the baiji was last sighted in August 2004, though there was a possible sighting in 2007. It is listed as an endangered species by the U.S. government under the Endangered Species Act. It is now thought to be extinct.

EXTINCT BIRDS:

Bachmans’s Warbler (Vermivora bachmanii)

by Leo Shapiro

… was probably extinct by the 1980s, but it formerly bred in the bottomland forests and canebrakes of the southeastern United States and wintered almost exclusively in Cuba. The species was first collected by the Reverend John Bachman in South Carolina (U.S.A.) and formally described by his friend John James Audubon shortly thereafter in 1833.

Bachman’s Warbler was subsequently largely forgotten for half a century until it was rediscovered by Charles Galbraith, who shot several dozen over the course of several years and brought one to George Lawrence for identification (Lawrence 1887; Fuller 2002). For several decades after its rediscovery, Bachman’s Warblers were encountered in fair numbers at several breeding locations and, during migration, in Florida. By 1920, however,  Bachman’s Warbler was scarce over most of its range and only a handful of breeding birds or migrants were encountered after 1930. The last undisputed sighting was of a single bird near Charleston, South Carolina, in 1962…

(read more: Encyclopedia of Life)

images: illustration by Louis Agassiz Fuertes; Photo: Phil Myers