What’s lost when an animal goes extinct?

Jaguar black tail tip

One way to think of a species, be it of ape or of ant, is as an answer to a puzzle: how to live on planet Earth. A species’ genome is a sort of manual; when the species perishes, that manual is lost.

We are, in this sense, plundering a library—the library of life. Instead of the Anthropocene, Wilson has dubbed the era we are entering the Eremozoic—the age of loneliness.

This article is adapted from Joel Sartore’s new book, Vanishing, published by National Geographic Books.

Joel Sartore has been photographing animals for his Photo Ark project for 13 years. In an ever growing number of cases, animals housed in zoos or special breeding facilities are among the last remaining members of their species. In some instances, they are the only members.

Toughie, a Rabbs’ fringe-limbed tree frog from central Panama, lived at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. He became the last known of his kind when a fungal disease swept through his native habitat and a captive-breeding program failed. Toughie died in 2016, and it’s likely the Rabbs…

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