What Are the Most Well-Known Extinct Animals?


Quick Answer

While familiarity with extinct animals varies, the dodo bird and the woolly mammoth can be considered generally well-known. The phrase "to go the way of the dodo" is a common reminder of the bird's extinction. The woolly mammoth went extinct in prehistoric times but still makes scientific headlines.

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The dodo bird was hunted to extinction in the late 17th century, roughly 100 years after its discovery. Native to Mauritius, it gained popularity when it appeared as a character in Lewis Carroll's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland." Since then, it has remained a cultural symbol of extinct animals. The closest living relative of the dodo is the Nicobar pigeon of Southeast Asia.

The woolly mammoth went extinct between 10,000 and 14,000 years ago. Scientists attribute climate change, which resulted in the erosion of their habitat, and possibly early human hunting for their elimination. In 2013, a nearly complete mammoth was discovered in Siberia. The possibility of cloning the elephant-like prehistoric animals appeared in the news in 2014.

Other extinct animals that may be generally recognizable include the Tasmanian tiger, the great auk, the passenger pigeon and the quagga. Well-known animals that have gone extinct in the 21st century include the Pyrenean ibex and the golden toad.

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