Human Food Sources Now Gone Forever

It is probably not possible to provide an exhaustive list of human food sources that are 100% gone forever as the extinction of a food source can occur for various reasons, including natural disasters, environmental changes, overexploitation, habitat loss, and climate change. However, below are a few notable examples.

The point of this short list is to make it quite clear that humans, as a species, are not intelligent enough to coordinate their efforts to avoid their own destruction by preventing overconsumption of limited resources.

These Animals Are Gone

Arabian Ostrich (Struthio camelus syriacus): A subspecies of ostrich found in the Arabian Peninsula. Overhunting and habitat degradation caused their extinction in the mid-20th century.

California Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos californicus): The California grizzly bear, once found throughout California, became extinct due to hunting and habitat destruction. It was hunted for its meat, fat, and other body parts for consumption.

Caribbean Monk Seal (Neomonachus tropicalis): A species of seal endemic to the Caribbean Sea. Once found in the waters surrounding the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, it was hunted extensively by humans for its meat, oil, and skins. Overhunting, habitat destruction, and competition with humans for resources (overfishing) led to their extinction in the 1950s.

Caspian Tiger (Panthera tigris virgata): The Caspian tiger, also known as the Persian tiger, used to inhabit the region from Turkey to Central Asia. It was hunted intensively due to fear, competition, and the demand for its body parts (including meat and bones) for traditional medicine. This led to its extinction in the mid-20th century.

Dodo (Raphus cucullatus): A flightless bird endemic to the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. Hunting, introduced species, and habitat loss led to their extinction around the late 17th century. It was often consumed by these sailors as a source of food.

Great Auk (Pinguinus impennis): A flightless bird native to the North Atlantic. Overhunting for feathers, eggs, and meat resulted in their extinction in the mid-19th century.

Ivory-Billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis): The ivory-billed woodpecker, once found in the southeastern United States, fell victim to habitat destruction and hunting. Although primarily insectivorous, it was also sought after for its meat, contributing to its decline and eventual extinction.

Japanese Sea Lion (Zalophus japonicus): The Japanese sea lion, endemic to the Sea of Japan, was hunted for its meat and oil. Overfishing and entanglement in fishing nets further contributed to its extinction, which was confirmed in 1974.

Javan Tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica): The Javan tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Java, was hunted due to conflict with humans and demand for its meat and body parts. It was declared extinct in the mid-20th century due to widespread habitat loss and hunting.

Passenger Pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius): Once the most abundant bird in North America, overhunting and deforestation led to their extinction by the early 20th century. It was a popular food source, and its large flocks were easily targeted.

Schomburgk’s Deer (Rucervus schomburgki): A small deer species native to Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. Overhunting and habitat loss caused their extinction in the early 20th century.

Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius): A large species of elephant that roamed the Earth during the last Ice Age. Climate change, overhunting by early humans, and habitat loss led to their extinction around 4,000 years ago.

Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus): A carnivorous marsupial native to Tasmania, Australia, and New Guinea. Overhunting, habitat destruction, and disease caused their extinction in the early 20th century.

Yangtze River Dolphin, aka Baiji (Lipotes vexillifer): The Baiji, a freshwater dolphin native to the Yangtze River in China, was declared functionally extinct in the early 2000s due to pollution, habitat degradation, and overfishing. While not a direct food source for humans, its presence in the river ecosystem, once abundant, has been completely lost.

Plants Too

Below are a few examples of plants that were once consumed by humans but are now extinct in the wild or no longer cultivated:

Amphibious Knotweed (Polygonum perfoliatum): This plant had edible leaves and stems and was found in wetlands and floodplain forests. It went extinct primarily due to habitat destruction, urbanization, and drainage of wetlands for agriculture.

Broad-Leaved Wild Rice (Oryza latifolia): It was a wild relative of cultivated rice, known for its tolerance to extreme environmental conditions. It became extinct mainly due to changes in water regimes, habitat alteration, and the widespread cultivation of modern rice varieties.

Ervatamia coronaria: This plant, commonly known as East Indian rosebay or chandani, was native to India and Southeast Asia. It was used for its flowers, which were used in perfumes, food coloring, and traditional medicine. As a result of habitat destruction and overexploitation, Ervatamia coronaria is now extinct in the wild and not cultivated.

Giant Taro (Dioscorea transversa): It was a large tuberous plant native to Fiji. Its tubers were a significant food source for local communities. This species became extinct due to overexploitation for food and the introduction of invasive species that outcompeted it for resources.

Perennial Teosinte (Zea diploperennis): It was a wild ancestor of modern maize/corn and had higher protein and nutrient content compared to its cultivated counterpart. It went extinct due to habitat destruction, competition with introduced crops, and overexploitation.

Silphium (Silphium spp.): Silphium was a plant native to the Mediterranean region, known for its use in ancient cooking and medicinal practices. It had a culinary and medicinal importance, particularly in ancient Rome. Due to overharvesting and land clearing, Silphium became extinct in the wild, and efforts to cultivate it have been unsuccessful.

Southern Bayberry (Myrica cerifera): It was a deciduous shrub native to southeastern North America. The fruits of the bayberry were used to make candles and were also edible. Its extinction was mainly caused by habitat loss due to urbanization, farming, and coastal development.

Some extinct plants and animals that were once consumed by humans include:


While many species have been driven to extinction due to human consumption, there are also examples of plants and animals that were once thought to be extinct but have been rediscovered, such as the Majorcan Midwife Toad and the Metasequoia tree [5].


These examples represent a fraction of the species that have become extinct due to human impacts, resulting in the loss of potential food sources forever. These examples highlight the impact of human activities on the extinction of various food sources throughout history. However, it is important to note that currently rare and endangered food sources could potentially be protected and preserved through conservation efforts.





Mari Chin

Mari Chin is interested in various overlaps where technology and health topics meet. After ghostwriting several articles, she joined News i8 as a writer and reporter in 2023.

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