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Benjamin was an endling, the last known thylacine (Tasmanian tiger), photographed at Hobart Zoo in 1933.

An endling is the last known individual of a species or subspecies. Once the endling dies, the species becomes extinct. The word was coined in correspondence in the scientific journal Nature. Alternative names put forth for the last individual of its kind include ender and terminarch.

The word relict may also be used, but usually refers to a population, rather than an individual, that is the last of a species.[1]


The 4 April 1996 issue of Nature published a correspondence in which commentators suggested that a new word, endling, be adopted to denote the last individual of a species.[1][2] The 23 May issue of Nature published several counter-suggestions, including ender, terminarch, and relict.[1][3]

The word endling appeared on the walls of the National Museum of Australia in Tangled Destinies, a 2001 exhibition by Matt Kirchman and Scott Guerin, about the relationship between Australian peoples and their land. In the exhibition, the definition, as it appeared in Nature, was printed in large letters on the wall above two specimens of the extinct Tasmanian tiger: "Endling (n.) The last surviving individual of a species of animal or plant". A printed description of this exhibition offered a similar definition, omitting reference to plants: "An endling is the name given to an animal that is the last of its species."[4][5]

In The Flight of the Emu: A Hundred Years of Australian Ornithology 1901-2001, author Libby Robin stated that "the very last individual of a species" is "what scientists refer to as an 'endling'".[6]

In 2011, the word was used in the Earth Island Journal, in an essay by Eric Freedman entitled "Extinction Is Forever: A Quest for the Last Known Survivors". Freedman defined endling as "the last known specimen of her species."[7]

In The Sense of an Endling, author Helen Lewis describes the notion of an endling as poignant, and the word as "wonderfully Tolkien-esque".[8]

In Cut from history, author Eric Freedman describes endling as "a word with finality." He opines, "It is deep-to-the-bone chilling to know the exact date a species disappeared from Earth. It is even more ghastly to look upon the place where it happened and know that nobody knew or cared at the time what had transpired and why."[9]

Notable endlings[edit]

Martha, the last passenger pigeon, died in the Cincinnati Zoo on September 1, 1914.

This is not a comprehensive list of contemporary extinction, but a list of high-profile, widely publicised examples of when the last individual of a species was known.


A dusky seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus nigrescens), officially declared extinct in 1990.
  • The last known great auks (Pinguinus impennis) were killed in 1844 for specimen collectors, after many centuries of exploitation for meat, eggs, and oil for burning. A disputed sighting in 1852 has also been debated.
  • The passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) became extinct at 1 p.m. on 1 September 1914 with the death of Martha, the last surviving member of the species, at the Cincinnati Zoo.[10][11] Once hugely abundant, millions of other passenger pigeons were eradicated by hunting.
  • Incas, the last known Carolina parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis), died, also at the Cincinnati Zoo, on 21 February 1918.[11] The species was officially declared extinct in 1939.
  • Booming Ben, a solitary heath hen (Tympanuchus cupido cupido), was last seen 11 March 1932 on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.[12]
  • Orange Band was the last known dusky seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritumus nigrescens) who died on 17 June 1987 at the Discovery Island zoological park at Walt Disney World Resort.[13]
  • The Kauaʻi ʻōʻō (Moho braccatus) was last seen in 1985, and last heard in 1987 when it was recorded by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The death of the ʻōʻō endling represented the extinction of not only a species, but the genus Moho, and the family Mohoidae.[14]
  • The last confirmed Ivory-billed woodpecker, a female, vanished by 1944,[15] though there have been possible sightings of the bird in later years such as 1967,[16] 1999,[17] 2004,[18] 2005, and 2006.[19] Those sightings have left the question of its survival up for debate.[20] The Cuban ivory-billed woodpecker has not been seen since 1987.[21]
  • By mid-1997, only 3 confirmed individuals of the Po'ouli remained. One died in 2004, and the other 2 have been missing since 2003 and 2004. The species was declared extinct in 2019.[22]
  • The last survivor of the rufous-fronted laughingthrush subspecies Garrulax rufifrons slamatensis is a female in a rescue station on Java.[23]
  • Only 1–2 Bahama nuthatches (Sitta insularis) may survive in the forests of Grand Bahama Island; a 2018 search produced several sightings, but no more than 1 or possibly 2 individuals were seen at once, and they might have been killed by Hurricane Dorian.[24][25]


  • In 1627, the last aurochs, an ancestor of bovine and cattle, died in a forest near what is now Jaktorów in modern-day Poland.
  • The quagga (Equus quagga quagga) became extinct in the wild in the late 1870s due to hunting for meat and skins, and the subspecies' endling died in captivity on 12 August 1883 at the Artis in Amsterdam.
  • The tarpan became extinct when the last one died in captivity in 1909.
  • On 7 September 1936, Benjamin, the last known Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus) died in Hobart Zoo, after the species was hunted to extinction by farmers. It has been suggested Benjamin died of neglect during a night of unusually extreme weather conditions in Tasmania.[26] Benjamin was not only the last individual thylacine, but the last individual of the genus Thylacinus and even of the entire family Thylacinidae.
  • Celia, the last Pyrenean ibex (Capra pyrenaica pyrenaica), was found dead on 6 January 2000 in the Spanish Pyrenees, after hunting and competition from livestock reduced the population to one individual.[27] Genetic samples had been taken from her prior to her death, and placed in a frozen zoo. The species was successfully cloned back from extinction by scientists in 2003; however, the clone only lived for seven minutes due to lung failure. One individual could not be cloned into a breeding population; more specimens would be needed.
  • Najin and her daughter Fatu at Ol Pejeta Conservancy are the last two individuals of the northern white rhinoceros.[28]
  • Approximately ten vaquita specimens are the relict of their species.[29]
  • The last captive Baiji (Yangtze river dolphin), Qiqi (淇淇), died in 2002 at the Institute of Hydrobiology in Wuhan. There was a later sighting in the wild in 2004.

Reptiles and amphibians[edit]

Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island tortoise
  • The last known golden toad was seen in 1989.
  • On 24 June 2012, Lonesome George, who was the last known Pinta Island tortoise (Chelonoidis niger abingdonii), died in his habitat in the Galápagos Islands.[30]
  • Until September 26, 2016, the Atlanta Botanical Garden was home to the last known surviving Rabbs' fringe-limbed treefrog (Ecnomiohyla rabborum) named Toughie. It is believed that the species became extinct in the wild mainly because of an epizootic of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in its native range.
  • The relict of Panamanian golden frogs were taken into captivity in 2006 to prevent their deaths from Chytridiomycosis infection.
  • The Cochabamba Natural History Museum has Romeo, who until 2019 was believed to be likely the last Sehuencas water frog.[31] The confirmed population now consists of fewer than 50 individuals.[32]


  • Turgi was the last Partula turgida, a Polynesian tree snail, who died on 31 January 1996 in the London Zoo.[35]
  • A tank in the Bristol Zoo was the last refuge of Partula faba, a land snail from Ra'iātea in French Polynesia. The population dropped from 38 in 2012[36] to one in 2015.[37] The last individual died on 21 February 2016.[37]
  • George was the last known individual of the Oahu tree snail species Achatinella apexfulva. It died on January 1, 2019, in captivity near Kailua, Hawaii.[38]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Jorgensen, Dolly (13 April 2013). "Naming and claiming the last". Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  2. ^ Robert M. Webster & Bruce Erickson (4 April 1996). "The last word?". Nature. 380 (386): 386. Bibcode:1996Natur.380..386W. doi:10.1038/380386c0. PMID 8602235.
  3. ^ Elaine Andrews (4 April 1996). "The last word". Nature. 381 (272): 272. Bibcode:1996Natur.381..272A. doi:10.1038/381272d0. S2CID 39305151.
  4. ^ "Tangled Destinies" (PDF). National Museum of Australia. 2002. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  5. ^ Smith, Mike (2001). "The Endling exhibition, Tangled Destinies gallery, National Museum of Australia, Canberra, 2001" (PDF). National Museum of Australia. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  6. ^ Robin, Libby (2002). The Flight of the Emu: A Hundred Years of Australian Ornithology 1901-2001. Melbourne University Press. p. 260. ISBN 978-0522849875.
  7. ^ Freedman, Eric (2011). "Extinction is Forever: A Quest for the Last Known Survivors". Earth Island Journal. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  8. ^ Lewis, Helen (27 June 2012). "The Sense of an Endling". The New Statesman. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  9. ^ Freedman, Eric (5 July 2008). "Cut from history: An abandoned Tasmanian zoo tells the haunting tale of an ending". EJ Magazine. Archived from the original on 2008-07-05. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  10. ^ "Endangered Species Handbook". Animal Welfare Institute. 1983. Archived from the original (pdf) on 2 December 2012. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
  11. ^ a b Blythe, Anne (27 August 2012). "Extinct Carolina Parakeet still fascinates". www.newsobserver.com. Archived from the original on 25 February 2014. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  12. ^ "Heath Hen (Extinct)". BeautyOfBirds (formerly Avian Web). Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  13. ^ "Last of dusky sparrows dies". The New York Times. Associated Press. 17 June 1987.
  14. ^ BirdLife International (2016). "Moho braccatus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T22704323A93963628. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22704323A93963628.en. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  15. ^ Weidensaul, Scott. "Ghost of a Chance". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2018-07-05.
  16. ^ Dennis, John V. (November–December 1967). "The ivory-bill flies still". Audubon: 38–45.
  17. ^ Brett Martel (19 November 2000). "Reported Sighting of 'Extinct' Woodpecker Drives Bird-Watchers Batty". Los Angeles Times.
  18. ^ Fitzpatrick, J. W.; Lammertink, M; Luneau Jr, M. D.; Gallagher, T. W.; Harrison, B. R.; Sparling, G. M.; Rosenberg, K. V.; Rohrbaugh, R. W.; Swarthout, E. C.; Wrege, P. H.; Swarthout, S. B.; Dantzker, M. S.; Charif, R. A.; Barksdale, T. R.; Remsen Jr, J. V.; Simon, S. D.; Zollner, D (2005). "Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis) Persists in Continental North America" (PDF). Science. 308 (#5, 727): 1460–62. Bibcode:2005Sci...308.1460F. doi:10.1126/science.1114103. PMID 15860589. S2CID 131104017.
  19. ^ Hill, Geoffrey E.; Mennill, Daniel J.; Rolek, Brian W.; Hicks, Tyler L. & Swiston, Kyle A. (2006). "Evidence Suggesting that Ivory-billed Woodpeckers (Campephilus principalis) Exist in Florida" (PDF). Avian Conservation and Ecology. 1 (3): 2. doi:10.5751/ace-00078-010302. Retrieved 2019-10-13. Erratum
  20. ^ Eastman, Whitney (1958). "Ten year search for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker". Atlantic Naturalist. 13 (4).
  21. ^ "Campephilus principalis (ivory-billed woodpecker)". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 2018-07-05.
  22. ^ BirdLife International (2019). "Melamprosops phaeosoma". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2019: e.T22720863A153774712. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-3.RLTS.T22720863A153774712.en. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  23. ^ "Cikananga Wildlife Center – Rufous-fronted Laughingthrush". www.cikanangawildlifecenter.com. Retrieved 2018-07-05.
  24. ^ "The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 2019-07-27.
  25. ^ "Hurricane Dorian might have wiped out the critically endangered Bahama nuthatch". 6 September 2019.
  26. ^ Lewis, Robert; Arnold, David (2002). Tangled Destinies: Exploring land and people in Australia over time through the National Museum of Australia (PDF). ISBN 0-949380-41-5. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 2011.
  27. ^ Richard Gray and Roger Dobson (31 January 2009). "Extinct ibex is resurrected by cloning". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2 August 2009. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  28. ^ Karimi, Faith. "The world's last male northern white rhino is dead. Now what?". CNN. Retrieved 2018-07-05.
  29. ^ "Phocoena sinus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 20 July 2017. 20 July 2017. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-2.RLTS.T17028A50370296.en. Retrieved 18 March 2021.
  30. ^ Valencia, Alexandra; Garcia, Eduardo (24 June 2012). "Lonesome George, last-of-his-kind Galapagos tortoise, dies". Reuters. Archived from the original on 2012-06-27.
  31. ^ Keerthana, R. (2018-04-10). "Going, going, gone". The Hindu.
  32. ^ IUCN SSC Amphibian Specialist Group (2020). "Telmatobius yuracare". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2020: e.T57369A154335458. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-3.RLTS.T57369A154335458.en. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
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  34. ^ "'Last female' of rare turtle species dies in China zoo". Al Jazeera English. 2019-04-14. Retrieved 2019-04-14.
  35. ^ "Tiny Tree Snail Finally Creeps To Extinction". Chicago Tribune. 1 February 1996.
  36. ^ Five of the world's 10 most at-risk species at Bristol Zoo[permanent dead link]
  37. ^ a b "Captain Cook's bean snail Partula faba". islandbiodiversity.com. Retrieved 2018-07-05.
  38. ^ Ed Yong (2019) "The Last of Its Kind" The Atlantic, July 2019. Accessed June 28, 2019.
  39. ^ Bachraz, V. (TPTNC).; Strahm, W. (2000). "Hyophorbe amaricaulis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2000: e.T38578A10125958. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2000.RLTS.T38578A10125958.en. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
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External links[edit]