Extinct Animal Series: South American Region

Lonesome George, the last Pinta Island tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra abingdoni)

This is part 2 of our series exploring the extinct animals from different regions of the world. We started this series last week with North America. As mentioned in the first part, since greedy humans have created a silent apocalypse in the wild with numerous species disappearing from the face of earth, our intention is to remember and immortalise these poor species from different regions.

The small list of animals extinct in South America.

  1. Noronhomys: Noronhomys vespuccii, also known as Vespucci’s rodent, is an extinct rat species from the islands of Fernando de Noronha off northeastern Brazil. Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci may have seen it on a visit to Fernando de Noronha in 1503, but it subsequently became extinct, perhaps because of the exotic rats and mice introduced by the first explorers of the island. Numerous but fragmentary fossil remains of the animal, of uncertain but probably Holocene age, were discovered in 1973 and described in 1999. Noronhomys vespuccii was a fairly large rodent, larger than the black rat.. A member of the family Cricetidae and subfamily Sigmodontinae, it shares several distinctive characters with Holochilus and related genera within the tribe Oryzomyini, including high-crowned molars with simplified crown features and the presence of several ridges on the skull which help anchor the chewing muscles.
  2. Falkland Islands wolf: The Falkland Islands wolf was the only native land mammal of the Falkland Islands. This endemic canid became extinct in 1876, the first known canid to have become extinct in historical times. Darwin writing about his 1834 visit to the Falklands in his Journal and Remarks (The Voyage of the Beagle) has the following to say of Canis antarcticus:

    The only quadruped native to the island, is a large wolf-like fox, which is common to both East and West Falkland. Have no doubt it is a peculiar species, and confined to this archipelago; because many sealers, Gauchos, and Indians, who have visited these islands, all maintain that no such animal is found in any part of South America. Molina, from a similarity in habits, thought this was the same with his “culpeu”; but I have seen both, and they are quite distinct. These wolves are well known, from Byron’s account of their tameness and curiosity; which the sailors, who ran into the water to avoid them, mistook for fierceness. To this day their manners remain the same. They have been observed to enter a tent, and actually pull some meat from beneath the head of a sleeping seaman. The Gauchos, also, have frequently killed them in the evening, by holding out a piece of meat in one hand, and in the other a knife ready to stick them. As far as I am aware, there is no other instance in any part of the world, of so small a mass of broken land, distant from a continent, possessing so large a quadruped peculiar to itself. Their numbers have rapidly decreased; they are already banished from that half of the island which lies to the eastward of the neck of land between St Salvador Bay and Berkeley Sound. Within a very few years after these islands shall have become regularly settled, in all probability this fox will be classed with the dodo, as an animal which has perished from the face of the earth. Mr Lowe, an intelligent person who has long been acquainted with these islands, assured me, that all the foxes from the western island were smaller and of a redder colour than those from the eastern. In the four specimens which were brought to England in the Beagle there was some variation, but the difference with respect to the islands could not be perceived. At the same time the fact is far from improbable.
  3. Red-throated wood rail: The red-throated wood rail is a disputed species of bird in the family Rallidae. If it is not a misidentification, it was endemic to Peru and apparently became extinct due to habitat loss some time in the 20th century. Following the 2006 SACC assessment which listed this species as dubious taxon BirdLife International removed the red-throated wood rail from the list of extinct species in 2009 as it might be either a badly prepared specimen of the grey-necked wood rail A. cajanea or a subspecies of the brown wood rail A. wolfi.
  4. Niceforo’s pintail: Niceforo’s pintail is an extinct subspecies of the yellow-billed pintail (Anas georgica), a duck in the dabbling duck subfamily Anatinae. One of three subspecies, it was found in central Colombia but became extinct in the 1950s, being last seen in 1952. Niceforo’s pintail was darker and richer in colouration than the nearest other subspecies, the Chilean pintail A. g. spinicauda, with the head and neck more streaked, the crown dark brown and with a less pointed tail. The former range of included subtropical and temperate zones of north-central Colombia, 1000–3000 m above sea level in the upper Cauca Valley, the central part of the Cordillera Oriental, the Bogota Savannah and Cundinamarca.
  5. Spiny-knee leaf frog: Spiny-knee leaf frog is a presumably extinct species of tree frog. It was endemic to Brazil, where the only known specimen was discovered near Paranapiacaba in the state of São Paulo. The type locality was given as “Alto da Serra”. While the species might still exist, having only been found once in the 1898, no trace of any individuals have been discovered in successive expeditions. This species is only known from the holotype, an adult female measuring 46 mm (1.8 in) in snout–vent length. The specimen was collected in 1898 and is now in bad condition with completely faded colors. At the time of species description, the holotype was dorsally pale blue and ventrally reddish yellow. The natural history of this species is unknown. Possibly it was a high-altitude stream-breeder. The reason for its disappearance are unknown. The area hosts some protected areas, namely the Serra do Mar State Park and Reserva Biológica do Alto da Serra de Paranapiacaba.
  6. Pinta Island tortoise: The Pinta Island tortoise, also known as the Pinta giant tortoise, Abingdon Island tortoise, or Abingdon Island giant tortoise, is a species of Galápagos tortoise native to Ecuador’s Pinta Island that is most likely extinct. The species was described by Albert Günther in 1877 after specimens arrived in London. By the end of the 19th century, most of the Pinta Island tortoises had been wiped out due to hunting. By the mid-20th century, the species was assumed to be extinct until a single male was discovered on the island in 1971. Efforts were made to mate the male, named Lonesome George, with other species, but no viable eggs resulted. Lonesome George died on 24 June 2012, and the species was believed to have become extinct with his death.
  7. Titicaca orestias: The Titicaca orestias, Lake Titicaca orestias, or Lake Titicaca flat-headed fish, also known by its native name amanto, is a likely extinct freshwater killifish from Lake Titicaca in South America. It belongs in the pupfish genus Orestias, endemic to lakes, rivers and streams in the Andean highlands. With a total length of up to 27 cm (10.6 in), it was the largest member in that genus. In the hope that an undiscovered population remains, it is listed as Data Deficient by the IUCN. Despite its common name, it is not the only Orestias from Lake Titicaca. Each species of Orestias has varying size. The Titicaca orestias was the largest species in the genus. The maximum recorded size is 22 cm (8.7 in) in standard length and 27 cm (10.6 in) in total length, which is considerably larger than most other species; only O. pentlandii at up to 20 cm (7.9 in) and 23.5 cm (9.3 in), respectively, comes close.

There are tonnes of other species from the wild which got extinct in South America, but we have covered the 7 recent extinctions above. Save our planet!

Source: Britannica, Wikipedia, The Atlas of World WildlifeThe Game Birds and Mammals,.

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