DATABASE: Going, Going, Gone

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Science  21 Sep 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5538, pp. 2175
DOI: 10.1126/science.293.5538.2175b

The dodo, the passenger pigeon, Steller's sea cow, the great auk—these are just a few of the species we humans have exterminated in recent centuries, and hundreds or thousands more may be disappearing every year. For a grim tally of animals that have vanished since the year 1500, check out this database compiled by curators at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

So far, the data only encompass mammals and fishes, but the curators plan to add information for birds and possibly reptiles and other groups, according to ichthyologist Ian Harrison. The database provides 31 variables for each species, such as common name, evidence for extinction, former habitat and distribution, and locations of specimens. You can download the raw data and use any standard database program to view and sort them, and you can also retrieve bibliographies on fish and mammal extinctions. The database is part of a project to better document extinctions and help scientists accurately determine extinction rates.

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