March 3, 2017

"One of the world’s three surviving northern white rhinos will soon become an endling, as will one of the thirty surviving vaquita porpoises, down from sixty just last year."

"Though the word hasn’t yet met Merriam-Webster’s standards, it does have its own Wikipedia entry, which Erickson has read with great interest. When he first opened the page, a small black-and-white image of the last known thylacine 'gave me a chill,' he said. Though he never expected 'endling' to survive, much less to come to personify extinction, he is glad that the word has found its niche. 'We don’t name the things we choose to ignore,' he said. 'So, somehow, naming it gives it a value that wasn’t there before. If that’s what the word is doing, I’m really proud to have been a part of it.'"

From "What Do You Call the Last of a Species?" (in The New Yorker).

39 comments:

Darrell said...

What do you call the last of a species? If there was any justice in the world, we'd call them "The Left."

Ignorance is Bliss said...

What Do You Call the Last of a Species?

How about dinner?

No, seriously. Think how much money you could raise for some environmental charity by auctioning off the rights to eat one of these things?

Sure, make sure you freeze a bunch of their eggs, or DNA, or whatever, so that you can re-create the species in the future when we have the tech.

Until then, bon appétit

buwaya said...

Funny that the human meaning has not become popular.
Because this most certainly is "a thing".
San Francisco for instance is full of people who are the last of their line. Its a surprisingly common situation.

Nonapod said...

How about an ultimatoid? Or a lastling?

mockturtle said...

More than 99 percent of all species, amounting to over five billion species, that ever lived on Earth are estimated to be extinct. At least, according to Wikipedia.

AJ Lynch said...

Screwed?

mockturtle said...

Darrell quips: What do you call the last of a species? If there was any justice in the world, we'd call them "The Left."

;-D

Fernandinande said...

A young one
http://lisatoms.deviantart.com/art/Thylacine-382123547

Gahrie said...

1) Maybe Northern White Rhinos are supposed to go extinct. Extinction is a natural process, and when we "save" species we are meddling just as much as when we drive a species to extinction.

2) Are Northern White Rhinos all that significantly different than Southern White Rhinos? Or Black Rhinos?

3) You want to save the rhinos? Come up with a tasty recipe and start serving it in trendy restaurants. It will become the next "thing" and soon there will be millions of rhinos being raised on farms all over the world.

robother said...

Susan Collins, the last of the Northern White RINOs. Sad!

urbane legend said...

mockturtle said...
More than 99 percent of all species, amounting to over five billion species, that ever lived on Earth are estimated to be extinct. At least, according to Wikipedia.


I was wondering how soon the world would end, between global warming and the white rhino disappearing. OTOH, the loss of the passenger pigeon didn't stop everything. Now, if Reese's Peanut Butter Cups become extinct, well, there won't be any reason to go on.

n.n said...

Garfield

Roughcoat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roughcoat said...

This makes me sad. "Endling" is such a sad term, but a poetic one. I hope the rhino's DNA will be saved. I hope de-extinction studies proceed apace and prove successful. I don't think this is meddling because I don't think nature is volitional in the sense that the White Rhino's extinction is supposed to happen; also because humans are a part of nature not separate from or outside it. I do believe that God has a plan for the world but that we can't know what it is, and I'm willing to believe that the de-extinction process may be part of that plan. Life is sacred, unless you're a member of ISIS or you're Joey Cashian, the bully who beat up on me in third grade. In those cases (and in others) I think extinction is called for.

Johnathan Birks said...

Given that well over 99% of all species that ever lived are now extinct, every living thing today is part of the >1%. Some species, like the goddam panda, have been trying very hard to die for decades but homo sapiens won't let them.

Andrew said...

Animals too ugly to get laid.

Seeing Red said...

Last of the species?

Not with technology.

Paul said...

What do you call the last of a species?


Dodo.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Extinction is a natural process

And a necessary one. The last Woolly Mammoths were wracked with genetic diseases. Can we resurrect them from DNA? Maybe. Should we? Probably not. Extinction is one part of evolution.

If all species that ever lived never evolved into others or never died out, imagine the horror and chaos.

If the tectonic plates didn't shift, if we didn't have swings between ice ages and warm spells, if we didn't have droughts offset by wet periods ....IF IF IF...well it happens and we can't change it. So get over it. Adapt or go extinct.

Last of the species? Sad. Alone. The end. A natural process.

Of course, man has been know to cause extinction. BUT...is it any less a natural extinction than the shark eating the last Vaquita porpoise? Dead is dead. Gone is gone. We shouldn't purposely set out to kill a species, but if it happens by our mere existence, just like the shark existing, how is that different?

mikeski said...

3) You want to save the rhinos? Come up with a tasty recipe and start serving it in trendy restaurants. It will become the next "thing" and soon there will be millions of rhinos being raised on farms all over the world.

It is the case that "friendly to humans" and "tasty to humans" are the best Darwinian survival strategies over the past few millenia. By weight, anyway; see xkcd.

I'm thinking rhinos may have issue with the "friendly" part, but I guess male cattle (like most herd animals) aren't overly cuddly, either...

Fernandinande said...

Dust Bunny Queen said...
The last Woolly Mammoths were wracked with genetic diseases.


That's the result of reaching the verge of extinction and having too small a gene pool to avoid inbreeding, not the cause of extinction.

Ron said...

I knew I should not have read the comments on this post.

Roy Lofquist said...

George Carlin said it best...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7W33HRc1A6c

Roughcoat said...

The last Woolly Mammoths were wracked with genetic diseases.

I read the article you linked. The theory that the last mammoths were wracked with genetic diseases has been put forth by a just a handful of scientists, one in particular who was quoted extensively in the article. If you read the article carefully you will find that the theory is just that, a theory, and that there is no indication either that it is widely accepted or, for that matter, widely opposed by scholars in the field.

The Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect seems to be operating here.

Bearing Murray Gell-Mann in mind, a careful reading of the article would seem to indicate that those last disease-wracked mammoths were members of the isolated "endling" herd on Wrangel Island, which was wracked with genetic diseases because it had been interbreeding for too long as a result of isolation.

I say, bring the mammoths back. Who knows but they might add biodiversity to the planet which might have a salutary effect on ... everything. It's just as reasonable to believe this as an outcome as to imagine the "horror and chaos" you mentioned.

Maybe bringing back mammoths and other extinct is their destiny, woven by the loom of fate into the fabric of existence, with humans serving as the shuttle. Maybe it's part of the plan, maybe it's supposed to happen. Who knows, who can say? One thing can be said for sure: we can't know what bringing them back will entail, for good or ill.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Northern white rhinos are probably jerks, like hummingbirds.

urbane legend said...

Andrew said...
Animals too ugly to get laid.


Isn't that why we have beer?

veni vidi vici said...

That half dog / half cat animal in the photo is enough to make me think those semi-crazy documentaries about the pyramids, Peru, and ancient aliens visiting from space a la Erich von Daniken, might actually be on to something other than providing an amusing way to while away a good buzz in front of the television.

buwaya said...

"That half dog / half cat animal in the photo "

Is even weirder than it looks. It was a marsupial.
More closely related to kangaroos than dogs or cats.

David said...

That photo of "Benjamin" has always struck me with great sadness. The animal's curiosity is obvious, and the object of the curiosity is the much more adaptable dog. The animal never knew that it was the last of its kind, but we do. Someday some human may well be in the same situation, knowing or suspecting the fate of the species. How would that feel?

David said...

"I say, bring the mammoths back."

Not gonna happen, at least in any way we can imagine right now. We might be able to bring back something that resembles a mammoth, but it will have the genes of another species, likely elephants. That will change things, and we will always be unsure of what.

Will the future change that? It could I suppose. At least with Mammoth we have frozen examples of the actual animal.

David said...

So how is the Northern White Rhino distinct from the other white Rhinos? Are they really different species, or is that just a result of how we classify? One definition of a species is a group of animals that can successful breed with other like animals. By that definition you might say that we are all just advanced Neanderthals. Sort of advanced. The advancement concept is also a tricky definitional problem.

Michael K said...

"Come up with a tasty recipe and start serving it in trendy restaurants"

The rhino's problem is that sexy horn, which is just an ingrown hair but the Chinese are really into rhino Viagra.

Sam L. said...

The northern white rhino, which is not in the picture above...

Michael K said...

The mammoths, like the camel and the horse, were probably killed off by humans. I'm not sure about the mammoth as it was adapted to the ice age. It's pretty certain that man killed off the camel and horse. Fortunately, they were not limited to north America.

urbane legend said...

Michael K said...
It's pretty certain that man killed off the camel and horse.

And now that we are over that hump . . .

madAsHell said...

What The Fuck?!?!?!

The black rhino is the extinction problem.

The white rhino isn't white, it is wide. They are plentiful. They are not northern because.....please consult your geography books. They all live south of the Sahara.

It's the Dutch translated (ubersetzung) to the English. weit v. wide and white.

Bob Ellison said...

Northern white rhinos are an inferior, genetically defective race. Southern black rhinos are socially-expert, horn-effective mammals.

Danno said...

urbanelegend said..."Now, if Reese's Peanut Butter Cups become extinct, well, there won't be any reason to go on."

If you ever try the peanut butter cups from Trader Joe's, you will never ever eat another Reese's. Reese's are fake peanut butter.

urbane legend said...

Thanks for the recommendation, Danno. Unfortunately, no Trader Joe's anywhere close to me.