Not every extinct animal has to be a monster. Some animals were so beautiful that you would probably be cuddling them now if they were not extinct.

The earth has accommodated millions of species. While Some may have survived, some faced the inevitable and perished trying to adapt. 

Even the perished species are always recorded in the history of species living on the earth. Today, let us discuss the fifteen beautiful extinct animals. 

1. Great auk 

Great auk 
Great auk 
Scientific NamePinguinus impennis
PhylumChordata
Distinctive looks Black back and head with a large white spot between bill and eye 
Extinction on 1850
Extinction factorPredation by Polar bear and exploitation by humans 

One of the most beautiful species ever existed on this planet is the Great auk. It is a species of flightless alcid that became extinct in the mid 19th century.

Albeit the penguins and the great auk may look similar based on their physical characteristics, they are only distantly related. Studies have shown that razorbill is, instead, a close living relative of the great auk. 

With a height between 75-80 cm and 5 kilograms, the auk has a black back and white belly. They had a black beak that was very heavy and hooked with grooves on its surface. 

A social animal, the great auk nested in highly dense and social colonies, laying one egg on bare rocks, was one of the 4,400 animal species described by Carl Linnaeus in his 18th-century work Systema Naturae

The reason behind the extinction of the great auk was the population was exposed to their breeding islands to predation by polar bears. Humans inflicted a primary source of damage to them.

They decimated the species to make pillows. Even the rule created to protect the species was disregarded by humans and continued to kill them for the food source and fishing bait.

An online discussion is uproaring about how the DNA from the specimen can revive the species. Even some ornithologists believe that it could be possible. 

2. Pinta island tortoise 

Pinta island tortoise 
Pinta island tortoise | Image Credit – Flickr
Scientific NameChelonoidis abingdonii
PhylumChordata
Distinctive looks Dark brownish gray saddleback-shaped 
Extinction on 2012
Extinction factorLack of food 

Native to Ecuador’s pinta island, the species were found in all continents but Antarctica and Australia. The species were lazy and rested sixteen hours a day.  

Primarily feeding on greens, grasses, native fruits, and cactus pads, the tortoise could store the food and water in their body for an extended period. They could survive up to six months without food or water.

The species provided ecosystem services by dispersing seeds. Acting as the ecological engineers through herbivory and nutrient cycling, the extinction of the species had faltered the functioning of island ecosystems. 

Estimated to be 100 years old, the last surviving member of the pinta island tortoise subspecies died on June 24th, 2012. The giant tortoise weighed 200 pounds and 5 feet in length.

The species are extinct because the whalers and anglers killed them for food, bringing them to extinction in the 19th century. 

After that atrocity, when the tortoise population was minuscule, seafarers introduced goats to the islands. 

The goats ate up the island’s vegetation and left none for the tortoise. The series of atrocious events led the species to oblivion. 

3. Steller’s Sea cow

Steller's Sea cow
Steller’s Sea cow | Image Credit – Flickr
Scientific NameHydrodamalis gigas
PhylumChordata 
Distinctive looks Thick layer of blubber 
Extinction on 1768
Extinction factorHunted by Siberian Yupik people 

Steller’s sea cow is an extinct sirenian. Native to commander islands in the Bering Sea between Alaska and Russia, there is a documentary named the beasts of the sea-based on observing the species on the island.

The species had a thickly layered blabber, an adaptation to the cold waters of its environment. Like the tails of whales, its tale was forked. 

The primary source of food for the sea cows was kelp. Using signs and snorting as a communication tool, the creature was believed to be a monogamous and social animal that lived in a small family group raising its younger ones.

The species was hunted profusely for its meat, fat, and hide. During the discovery of the sea cow in 1741, the species had only a few more decades to survive. The species extirpated in 1768.

The supposed theory behind the extinction is the sea urchin population growth. Since the sea cow fed on shallow-water kelp, the proliferation of urchins eliminated the survival food. 

4. Woolly mammoth 

Woolly mammoth 
Woolly mammoth | Image Credit – Flickr
Scientific NameMammuthus primigenius
PhylumChordata 
Distinctive looks High and Domelike skull
Extinction on 4,000 years ago
Extinction factorHunting and Climate change 

In the early Holocene period, the wooly mammoth once occupied many arctic tundra regions of the northern hemisphere. 

The hairy cousins of today’s Asian elephants could reach eleven feet in height and weigh 6 tonnes. 

The elephants were covered in black, brown, and ginger fur. Shelters were built from the mammoth’s skeleton, while harpoons were carved from their giant tusks. The oldest musical instrument, a flute, was made from a mammoth bone. 

Once believed that humans were the reason behind the extinction of the woolly mammoth. It has been falsified. 

A ten-year research project led by Professor Eske willerslev published in nature today stated that the climate was responsible for the annihilation of the species.

When the climate warmed up, the trees and wetland plants took over and replaced the mammoth’s grassland. Their food was scarce. Unable to adapt quickly, they became extinct. 

5. Irish elk 

Irish elk 
Irish elk | Image Credit – Flickr
Scientific NameMegaloceros giganteus
PhylumChortada 
Distinctive looks Large size antlers 
Extinction on 8,000 years ago
Extinction factorHunting by humans 

One of the largest deer ever lived, the species is an extinct species of deer that was abode across Eurasia during the Pleistocene, from Ireland to lake Baikal in Siberia. 

With seven feet tall at the shoulder and weighing up to 700kg, they possess antlers reaching 12 feet in width, the largest of any deer species. 

The antlers worked like a charm to impress the opposite sex while as a weapon to intimidate rivals. 

According to the data, the species evolved around 400,000 years ago and extirpated 11,000 years ago. 

Hunting is the primary reason for its extinction. Another reason is that the species required considerable calcium to maintain and grow its antlers. 

Because of the retreating ice, many plants begin to flourish, which causes dietary minerals insufficiency in the animals. 

6. Atlas bear 

Atlas bear 
Atlas bear | Image Credit – Flickr
Scientific NameUrsus arctos crowtheri
PhylumChordata 
Distinctive looks Brownish-Black in color 
Extinction on Late 19th century
Extinction factorOver hunting 

Africa’s only bear that survived into modern times, the atlas bear, is an extinct population. 

The species inhabited Atlas mountain and the surrounding areas, from Morocco to Libya.

The bear appeared brownish-black in color and lacked a white mark on the muzzle. The underparts’ fur was reddish-orange. The bear was believed to have 9 feet and weighed 1000 pounds. 

Mostly the bears were herbivorous but believed to have been eating meat since most bears in today’s world are omnivorous. 

The extinction of the Atlas bear is traced back to the roman empire. When the empire expanded in north Africa, the kingdom’s people started hunting and capturing the atlas bear. Using the bear as a sport for many games, the number of bears slowly diminished.

Hunters killed the few remaining atlas bears. In 1870, the last surviving atlas bear died in the Tetouan mountains in northern Morocco due to poaching.

7. Hispaniola Monkey

Hispaniola Monkey
Hispaniola Monkey | Image Credit – Flickr
Scientific NameAntillothrix bernensis
PhylumChordata 
Distinctive looks Golden Color skin
Extinction on Recondite 
Extinction factorUnclear 

Endemic on the islands of Hispaniola, the present-day Dominican republic, the Hispaniola monkey is an extinct primate. 

The species is believed to be extinct around the 16th century. However, the exact date and the reason for extinction is recondite. 

Initially,  there was just a hypothesis about the existence of such species. Horovitz and Macphee developed the theory that all the Antillean monkeys entail a monophyletic group linked most closely with the modern genus Callicebus. 

It was only in July 2009; the theory proved to be true. During his underwater cave expedition, Walter Pickel found an Antillothrix bernensis skull. 

The skull was discovered in the la Jeringa cave of Colombia national park. The discovery supported the hypothesis of the monophyletic origin of the Antilles monkey, i.e., Hisponiala monkey. 

8. Tasmanian tiger

Tasmanian tiger
Tasmanian tiger | Image Credit – Flickr
Scientific NameThylacinus cynocephalus
PhylumChordata 
Distinctive looks Dark stripes across the back from shoulder to tails
Extinction on 1936
Extinction factorHumans intervention 

Native to the Australian mainland and the island of Tasmania and New Guinea, the species aren’t tigers rather meat-eating marsupial and nocturnal creatures that feed on kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, and possums.

The species were shy. Because of the convergent evolution, the animals possess anatomy and adaptations similar to the tiger, wolf, and kangaroo. 

Tasmanian devil and numbat are the closest living relatives of the species. Known to have appeared about 2 million years ago, Tasmanian tigers became extinct in 1936.

During European settlement, there were plentiful Tasmanian tigers, 5000 to be exact. Building habitats for humans destroyed the species habitats—excessive hunting for the skin. 

Diseases introduced by the immigrants. The causes could have made the species vulnerable and susceptible to extinction. 

9. Sea mink

Sea mink
Sea mink | Image Credit – Pixabay
Scientific NameNeogale macrodon
PhylumChordata 
Distinctive looks Reddish brown fur
Extinction on 1986
Extinction factorPursued by fur traders 

The sea mink is an extinct species native to the eastern coast of North America around the Gulf of Maine on the New England seaboard. It was one of the largest mink species ever to inhabit North America. 

After its extinction in 1895, the sea mink was first described in 1903. Its description came from speculation and accounts made by fur traders and Native Americans. 

The information regarding its taxonomic roots was decisive. In 2003, a discord erupted between two parties: one stating that the sea mink was an offshoot of American sea mink while the other suggested that they were distinct species. Finally, in 2007 the separate species side won.

Between 1860 and 1920, the unregulated fur trade of sea mink rose to delete every sea mink in the world. 

10. Quagga 

Quagga 
Quagga | Image Credit – Flickr
Scientific NameEquus quagga quagga
PhylumChordata 
Distinctive looks Limited patterns of brown and white strips
Extinction on 1878
Extinction factorHunted profusely after the European settlement of south africa 

Endemic to South Africa, the quagga is an extinct subspecies of the plains zebra. The scientific name of the animal is Equus quagga quagga. 

The species were long thought to be different, not conspecific to plain zebras. Later, the conjecture was falsified.

Easily distinguishable from the zebras by its limited pattern of primarily brown and white stripes, mainly on the above part of the body, the zebra is believed to have been around 257cm and 125-135 cm tall at the shoulder.

By the 1850s, the species had lost its variety. The orange free state had the last population of quaggas in the wild: however, they were extirpated brutally.  

11. Lepidochrysops hypopolia

Scientific NameLepidochrysops hypopolia
PhylumArthropoda 
Distinctive looks Beautiful blue color
Extinction on Listed as extinct in 1989
Extinction factorNot known 

The species is also known as Morant’s blue. Endemic to South Africa, the butterfly is an extinct butterfly species in the family Lycaenidae. 

The butterfly receives its name from Walter Morant, who caught the two complete male specimens.

Only two male specimens and one partial male specimen are known of the species. In 1992 S. F Henning & G. A, Henning listed the butterflies on the extinct list. 

Mortar’s complete illustrations are on display at the natural history museum London. 

Since 1879, there have been no verified specimens. It has been noticed that the three known models could be chemically bleached. 

12. Andrewsarchus

Andrewsarchus
Andrewsarchus | Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons
Scientific NameAndrewsarchus mongoliensis
PhylumChordata 
Distinctive looks Massive teeth
Extinction on Between 45 and 36 million years ago
Extinction factorUnknown 

It is an extinct genus of mammals that lived during the middle Eocene epoch in inner Mongolia. Andrewsarchus is the largest carnivor among all the mammals that ever lived.

It’s already been a century that no other fossils of the species have been discovered. Comparing it to currently living animals, it was about the size of a rhino and acted as an enormous wolf. 

The only skull was found at a locality in Mongolia, now protected by the American Museum of Natural History in New york. 

13. Aepyornis

Aepyornis
Aepyornis | Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons
Scientific NameAepyornis maximus
PhylumChordata 
Distinctive looks Enormous bird 
Extinction on 1000 AD
Extinction factorResult of human activities 

Aepyornis is one of three genera of ratite bird that was endemic to Madagascar until they were extinct around AD 1000. 

The species weighed up to 540 kilograms. Recently, the species has been named the largest known bird of all time. 

The closest living relative of the species is the New Zealand kiwi. Much like kiwi, these animals had poor eyesight and large olfactory bulbs. 

Humans are considered responsible for the extension of the species. According to the blitzkrieg hypothesis, although the birds were widespread from the northern to the southern tip of Madagascar, every individual was hunted down by the humans for a large landmass.

14. Meganeura

Meganeura
Meganeura | Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons
Scientific NameMeganeura
PhylumArthropoda
Distinctive looks Huge in size 
Extinction on Approximately 300 million years old 
Extinction factorDecreased oxygen levels 

Approximately 300 million years ago, meganeura was a beautiful creature from a genus of extinct insects. 

The species resemble dragonflies and damselflies. The species had a wingspan ranging from 65cm to over 70cm. 

The species was so large. We can find a plethora of theories to justify the large size of the species.  

There were no predators of the species. Another reason is that the insects that grew in water before becoming terrestrial as adults grew more significant to protect themselves against high oxygen levels. 

15. Lord Howe gerygone

Lord Howe gerygone
Lord Howe gerygone | Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons
Scientific NameGerygone insularis
PhylumChordata 
Distinctive looks pale gray eye-ring and a gray throat and chin
Extinction on Unknown 
Extinction factorPredation by black rats

Brown and greyish, the lord howe gerygone was a small bird in the family Acanthuridae. The head was brown, accentuated by the pale grey eye-ring and a grey throat and chin. 

Endemic to the lord Howe islands in the Tasman Sea, the bird had a variety of monikers. 

Since 1928, there has been no trace of the species, so the species is now listed on the extinct species list.

Colloquially known as a rain bird because of its activities after the rain, the lord howe grew roughly 12 centimeters and weighed 6 to 7 grams.

The reason behind the extinction is that black rats were accidentally introduced to the islands in 1918 following the shipwreck of the SS malambo.

Conclusion

These were the animals that once inhabited the earth and are the most beautiful creatures ever existed. Some of them were victims of human interference whereas some of them became extinct because of natural causes.

With each species lost, the earth lost its richness in biodiversity. We must not let any species go extinct as every species is a part of the ecosystem and balances the earth. Protecting biodiversity should be human’s foremost duty. 

(Last Updated on May 24, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Saurav Khadka, with his A levels in computer science from Saipal Academy, owns a keen desire to know more about the environment. He wants to preach his knowledge to others by learning through his hobbies; reading, writing, traveling, and watching movies. He believes sharing his insight regarding a sustainable environment will undoubtedly generate positive perceptions in the people.