How Animals Go Extinct
It is a natural part of an ecosystem that some animals adapt better than others. Over time they can squeeze the less adapted species out of their position to extinction. In studying man and the environment, it is easy to think that humans have caused all the extinctions of animals so far in the world, but in fact most extinctions happened millions of years ago before humans even lived on the planet! We know from the fossil record that thousands of prehistoric species of animals and plants have lived on Earth and over time have gone extinct, including all the dinosaurs.Ways We Drive Animals to Extinction
It is true that people have, through over-hunting, development, habitat destruction, and careless introduction of predators, caused many animals to go extinct. There are many examples of this to look at. Often big mammals were hunted to “protect” people and their livestock. This happened to the Caspian tiger. Found across the Middle East, around the south end of the Caspian Sea and across into Asia, this tiger was driven to extinction by the Russian army. They were ordered to kill all the tigers to open up the region to development. Once the tigers were gone, towns grew up and the whole region became more developed and less “wild.
”The most famous extinction, though, happened from the careless introduction of predators to a protected ecosystem. When sailors first landed on the island of Mauritius, off the coast of Africa, the large flightless birds living there — dodos — had never seen predators before. Sailors killed a lot of them right off for food and sport, but the biggest toll came from the new predators that arrived with the sailors on their ships. Dogs, cats, pigs, and rats preyed on the clueless dodos, as well as their eggs and young in nests on the ground. It took less than 100 years for all of the dodos to disappear completely.
Butterflies feed on the flower nectar of certain plants. You can plant these plants in your garden and attract a lot of visiting butterflies. You can also plant some flowers that their caterpillars like to eat. The butterflies will lay their eggs on those plants. Some examples of flowers that butterflies like are cosmos, Queen Anne's lace, zinnia, butterfly weed, coneflowers, New England asters, spearmint, milkweed, yarrow, phlox, and daylilies. These will also make beautiful gardens!
Even if the extinction of an animal is blamed on over-hunting, habitat loss is usually part of the story. Less than 200 years ago, there were grizzly bears that lived out on the American prairie. The plains grizzly was a fearsome sight to early settlers. Yet even these giant animals lost their habitat to the droves of new settlers invading the west and soon disappeared. Now plains grizzlies can only be found in some wild prairies in Northern Canada where few people live to disturb them.
Many species balance on the edge of extinction from habitat loss and may not last another generation. These include some of our favorite animals like the panda, orangutan, tiger, snow leopard, and mountain gorilla.Too Late for Some…
Our present-day awareness of the importance of protecting endangered species and their habitats is a good thing, but it has come too late for many species that have gone extinct throughout the world. Some have gone extinct not too long ago. Species like the passenger pigeon, Steller's sea cow, dodo, moa, and quagga all have disappeared in the last 400 years. There are many endangered animals that are being watched and taken care of in hopes of a return to safe numbers.
Hopefully, knowing the importance of healthy habitats and learning from the experiences with keystone species we can keep new animal extinctions down to the fewest number possible.