10 Extinct Animals Lost to Planet Earth but Preserved in Photographs [Excerpt & Photo Essay]

These 10 animals are just a few of the species to have been lost to extinction but still can be seen via old photographs

Photo credit: A photo taken by James Tanner showing his colleague J. J. Kuhn with the young ivory-bill they named Sonny Boy. Courtesy of Nancy Tanner.

The Ivory-billed woodpecker was a spectacular black-and-white bird, with males sporting a dramatic red crest at the back of the head. It was large for a woodpecker (around 20 inches long); in fact it was the second-largest of all known woodpeckers, the largest being Mexico's Imperial Woodpecker--which is also now considered extinct.

Most of what is known of the living bird comes from the work of James T. Tanner (1914-1991), who located ivory-bills in the 1930s, at a time when the species was all but gone and the population was down to a handful of birds. On Sunday, March 6 1938, Tanner temporarily removed a young individual from its nest to ring it, and while it was under his control several wonderful photographs were taken. Two of these photographs were reproduced in Tanner's book, The Ivory-billed Woodpecker, published in 1942. For many years, it was assumed these were the only photographs taken that day, but more than 60 years later, Nancy, Jim's widow, shared an old brown envelope containing photographic negatives of several more images with a naturalist called Stephen Lyn Bales. Bales used several of them in his book Ghost Birds (2010).

(left) A female thylacine and her young (around 8 months old) at Beaumaris in 1909. (right) The same four thylacines photographed at Beaumaris in January 1910.
Photo credit: Photographer unknown

The thylacine is one of the world's most celebrated mystery animals. Does it still exist in remote and little visited parts of Tasmania, or did the last individual die--as the academic record states--on September 7th 1936, in an enclosure at the Beaumaris Zoo, Hobart? The truth probably lies somewhere in between. Small numbers of Thylacines, isolated from others of their kind, were perhaps still padding about the Tasmanian wilderness for some years after the death of the zoo individual that has come to be known as the "last" of the species. The likelihood is that at some time during the 1940s, 1950s or 1960s the very last Tasmanian thylacine died alone on a beach, in a forest, or on a mountainside.

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