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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 states 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]

In popular culture[edit]

In the superhero card game Sentinels of the Multiverse, the "Enclave of the Endlings" is a location where a being called the Terminarch preserves the last individuals of their species.[10]

Notable endlings[edit]

Martha, the last passenger pigeon, died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 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.


  • 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 on 1 September 1914, when the endling Martha died at the Cincinnati Zoo.[11][12] Once hugely abundant, millions of other passenger pigeons were eradicated by hunting.
  • Incas, the last known Carolina parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis), died at the Cincinnati Zoo on 21 February 1918.[12]
  • Booming Ben, a solitary heath hen (Tympanuchus cupido cupido), was last seen 11 March 1932 on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.[13]
  • Orange Band was the last known Dusky seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritumus nigrescens) who died on 17 June 1987.[14]
  • 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 entire Mohoidae of birds.[15]
  • The last confirmed American ivory-billed woodpecker, a female, vanished by 1944[16] and the Cuban ivory-billed woodpecker has not been seen since 1987.[17]
  • By mid-1997, only 3 confirmed individuals of the Po'ouli remained. One has been missing since 2003, one died in 2004, and the third one has been missing since 2004.[18]
  • The last survivor of the rufous-fronted laughingthrush (Garrulax rufifrons slamatensis) is a female in a rescue station on Java.[19]
A dusky seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus nigrescens), officially declared extinct in 1990.


  • In 1627, the last Aurochs, an ancestor of bovine and cattle, died 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.[20] 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.[21] The species was successfully cloned back from extinction by scientists in 2003, however, the clone only lived for seven minutes due to lung failure.
  • Najin and her daughter Fatu at Ol Pejeta Conservancy are the last two individuals of the northern white rhinoceros.[22]
  • Approximately 12 vaquita specimens are the relict of their species.[23]
Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island tortoise

Reptiles and amphibians[edit]


  • Turgi was the last Partula turgida, a Polynesian tree snail, who died on 31 January 1996 in the London Zoo.[26]
  • 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[27] to one in 2015.[28] The last individual died on 21 February 2016.[28]
  • The University of Hawaii has in captivity the last known individual of the snail species Achatinella apexfulva. No other members of this species have been found in over a decade of searching.[29]


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. doi:10.1038/380386c0.
  3. ^ Elaine Andrews (4 April 1996). "The last word". Nature. 381 (272). doi:10.1038/381272d0.
  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). "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. ^ "Enclave of the Endlings". Sentinels Wiki. Retrieved 2017-09-01.
  11. ^ "Endangered Species Handbook" (pdf). Animal Welfare Institute. 1983. Retrieved 29 February 2012.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ "Heath Hen (Extinct)". BeautyOfBirds (formerly Avian Web). Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  14. ^ "Last of dusky sparrows dies". The New York Times. Associated Press. 17 June 1987.
  15. ^ "Moho braccatus (Kaua'i 'O'o, Kauai Oo)". www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved 2018-05-15.
  16. ^ Weidensaul, Scott. "Ghost of a Chance". Smithsonian. Retrieved 2018-07-05.
  17. ^ "Campephilus principalis (ivory-billed woodpecker)". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 2018-07-05.
  18. ^ "Melamprosops phaeosoma (Black-faced Honeycreeper, Po'o-uli, Poo-uli)". www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved 2018-07-05.
  19. ^ "Cikananga Wildlife Center - Rufous-fronted Laughingthrush". www.cikanangawildlifecenter.com. Retrieved 2018-07-05.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ Richard Gray and Roger Dobson (31 January 2009). "Extinct ibex is resurrected by cloning". The Telegraph. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
  22. ^ CNN, Faith Karimi,. "The world's last male northern white rhino is dead. Now what?". CNN. Retrieved 2018-07-05.
  23. ^ "Only 12 vaquita porpoises remain, watchdog group reports". news.mongabay.com. Retrieved 2018-07-05.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-in-school/going-going-gone/article23485883.ece
  26. ^ "Tiny Tree Snail Finally Creeps To Extinction". Chicago Tribune. 1 February 1996.
  27. ^ Five of the world's 10 most at-risk species at Bristol Zoo
  28. ^ a b "Captain Cook's bean snail Partula faba". islandbiodiversity.com. Retrieved 2018-07-05.
  29. ^ van Dooren, Thom. "The last snail: conservation and extinction in Hawai'i". Retrieved 2014-06-01.
  30. ^ "Hyophorbe amaricaulis". www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved 2018-07-05.
  31. ^ "Pennantia baylisiana (Three Kings Kaikomako)". www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved 2018-07-05.

External links[edit]