If you’ve been a fan of TopTenz.net for awhile, you’re obviously familiar with our format. Heck, it’s right there in the name, after all. But we’ve heard some of your requests, particularly over on our YouTube channel, asking for a few shorter lists now and then. We listened, and last week we introduced a new series called Fast Five (editor’s note: Vin Diesel still not included).
Few things in life, except maybe watching a cookie break in half and slowly sink to the bottom of a glass of milk, are more saddening than an animal going extinct. Here’s a list of 5 animals that not only went extinct, but did so in such a ridiculous manner it’s almost like the universe went out of its way to screw them over, starting with…
5. The Tecopa Pupfish
The Tecopa pupfish was a small, adorably named species of fish that was endemic to a small area of California famed for its natural hot springs. The fish was uniquely adapted to living in the warm water of the outflows of the springs, meaning its very existence was hinged on people not, say, deciding to build a bunch of bathhouses. You can probably see where this is going.
During the ’60s, the various hot springs in the area the pupfish were native to were enlarged to help construct several large bathhouses. Basically, these are natural hot tubs for rich people to soak their feet and large sacks of money in. This led to the small outflows and rivers the fish lived in being further dug out to accommodate the increased flow of water. This caused the outflows to begin flowing so much faster that the entire species was basically flushed down-river, where they all died in the colder water.
4. The Great Auk
The great auk was a small, penguin-looking bird endemic to the North Atlantic. A flightless bird, the great auk laid its eggs on the ground, taking care to only breed on specific uninhabited islands whose natural landscape offered protection from the elements and predators.
This lack of predators made the little bird an easy target for human hunters who valued the animal for its down, meat, and the fact that killing them probably made them feel like big men. The species was hunted to near extinction in the early 19th century, leading to numerous attempts to save it, which clearly failed given the title of this list.
The remnants of the once plentiful bird were eradicated in the 1840s, starting with a group of sailors who beat the last surviving example of the bird seen in British waters to death with a stick, after mistaking it for a witch. We’re not making that up. Four years later the rest of the species was similarly killed when museums, realizing the species would likely be completely gone soon, offered hunters a premium for great auk specimens to stuff and put on display. Two fisherman caught the last observed birds for this exact purpose, stalking them like movie serial killers from a mile away before quietly sneaking up on them in the dead of night and strangling them. This was followed by, seemingly as a final insult to the clumsy bird’s legacy, one of the fishermen stomping on the single egg they were protecting.
3. The Tasmanian Tiger
The Tasmanian tiger, or more accurately the thylacine, was a curious creature hailing from, funnily enough, Tasmania. A carnivorous marsupial with oddly colored fur, thylacines looked similar to dogs but like all marsupials, raised their young in small pouches on their belly.
Described by many as one of the weirdest creatures to have ever lived, partly because it was discovered that, for some reason, male thylacines possessed a small pouch of fur designed just to keep their testicles warm and toasty. For this and other reasons, thylacine were considered a curiosity by many, but sadly also a pest by people with guns. As a result, the species was hunted to near total extinction by farmers in the 1920s, leading to a single known specimen surviving, a male called Benjamin. Benjamin was later killed in 1936 when a zookeeper forgot to unlock his sleeping quarters before going home, causing him to freeze to death. As if that wasn’t bad enough, experts then argued for 7 straight decades about whether Benjamin was male because his penis was so small. This argument was only settled when an enhanced photo revealed that Benjamin did indeed own a set of testicles.
2. The Cordoba Fighting Dog
The Cordoba fighting dog was a rare and unusual species of canine known for its near unrivaled ferocity and seeming inability to feel pain, fear, or pity. As the name suggests, Cordoba fighting dogs were bred into existence purely for fighting, supposedly by Argentinians sometime in the late 19th century.
A cross between several breeds valued for their size and power, such as the boxer, the mastiff, and bull terrier, Cordoba fighting dogs would attack anything and were highly valued by the festering pustules of society, known as dog fighters, for their willingness to fight to the death. However, this instinct was so strong in the species that breeding them proved next to impossible. Why? Well, two dogs of the breed would invariably choose to fight until one of them was killed rather than mate. This led to the species slowly dwindling and ultimately going extinct with the banning of dog fighting in the 20th century in Argentina. For any dog owners out there, please give your furry friend a belly rub and pet for all the poor Cordoba fighting dogs that never got one.
1. The Stephen Island Wren
The Stephen Island Wren is a species notable for one real reason: its entire population was killed by a single creature… for fun. The name of this unfeeling engine of avian destruction? Mr. Tibbles.
Yep, the Stephen Island Wren, a small flightless bird native to a small island off the coast of New Zealand, was eradicated by a solitary housecat with a stupid name. The common story goes that Mr Tibbles, who was owned by a lighthouse keeper on the island, methodically hunted the entire species to extinction over the course of a single year. Coincidentally, the same year the bird was also discovered. In other words, in the space of 12 months, the Stephen Island Wren was discovered and simultaneously declared extinct because of some jerk cat called Mr. Tibbles. And people have the nerve to say that man is the greatest threat to the animal kingdom.