An endling is the last known individual of a species or subspecies. Once the endling dies, the species becomes extinct. The word was coined in correspondence in the scientific journal Nature. Alternative names put forth for the last individual of its kind include ender and terminarch.
The word relict may also be used, but usually refers to a population, rather than an individual, that is the last of a species.
The 4 April 1996 issue of Nature published a correspondence in which commentators suggested that a new word, endling, be adopted to denote the last individual of a species. The 23 May issue of Nature published several counter-suggestions, including ender, terminarch, and relict.
The word endling appeared on the walls of the National Museum of Australia in Tangled Destinies, a 2001 exhibition by Matt Kirchman and Scott Guerin, about the relationship between Australian peoples and their land. In the exhibition, the definition, as it appeared in Nature, was printed in large letters on the wall above two specimens of the extinct Tasmanian tiger: "Endling (n.) The last surviving individual of a species of animal or plant". A printed description of this exhibition offered a similar definition, omitting reference to plants: "An endling is the name given to an animal that is the last of its species."
In The flight of the emu: a hundred years of Australian ornithology 1901-2001, author Libby Robin states that "the very last individual of a species" is "what scientists refer to as an 'endling'".
In 2011, the word was used in the Earth Island Journal, in an essay by Eric Freedman entitled "Extinction Is Forever: A Quest for the Last Known Survivors". Freedman defined endling as "the last known specimen of her species."
In The sense of an endling, author Helen Lewis describes the notion of an endling as poignant, and the word as "wonderfully Tolkien-esque".
In Cut from history, author Eric Freedman describes endling as "a word with finality." He opines, "It is deep-to-the-bone chilling to know the exact date a species disappeared from Earth. It is even more ghastly to look upon the place where it happened and know that nobody knew or cared at the time what had transpired and why."
This is not a comprehensive list of contemporary extinction, but a list of high-profile, widely publicised examples of when the last individual of a species was known.
The last known great auks (Pinguinus impennis) were killed in 1844 for specimen collectors, after many centuries of exploitation for meat, eggs and oil for burning. A disputed sighting in 1852 has also been debated.
The passenger pigeon (Ectopistes migratorius) became extinct on 1 September 1914, when the endling Martha died at the Cincinnati Zoo. Once hugely abundant, millions of other passenger pigeons were eradicated by hunting.
Incas, the last known Carolina parakeet (Conuropsis carolinensis), died at the Cincinnati Zoo on 21 February 1918.
The Kauaʻi ʻōʻō (Moho braccatus) was last seen in 1985, and last heard in 1987 when it was recorded by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. The death of the ʻōʻō endling represented the extinction of not only a species, but the genus Moho, and the entire Mohoidae of birds.
Only 1-2 Bahama nuthatches (Sitta insularis) may survive in the forests of Grand Bahama Island; a 2018 search produced several sightings, but no more than 1 to possibly 2 individuals were seen at once.
A dusky seaside sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus nigrescens), officially declared extinct in 1990.
In 1627, the last Aurochs, an ancestor of bovine and cattle, died in modern-day Poland.
The quagga (Equus quagga quagga) became extinct in the wild in the late 1870s due to hunting for meat and skins, and the subspecies' endling died in captivity on 12 August 1883 at the Artis in Amsterdam.
The tarpan became extinct when the last one died in captivity in 1909.
On 7 September 1936, Benjamin, the last known Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus) died in Hobart Zoo, after the species was hunted to extinction by farmers. It has been suggested Benjamin died of neglect during a night of unusually extreme weather conditions in Tasmania. Benjamin was not only the last individual thylacine, but the last individual of the genus Thylacinus and even of the entire family Thylacinidae.
Celia, the last Pyrenean ibex (Capra pyrenaica pyrenaica), was found dead on 6 January 2000 in the Spanish Pyrenees, after hunting and competition from livestock reduced the population to one individual. The species was successfully cloned back from extinction by scientists in 2003, however, the clone only lived for seven minutes due to lung failure.
Until September 26, 2016, the Atlanta Botanical Garden was home to the last known surviving Rabbs' fringe-limbed treefrog (Ecnomiohyla rabborum) named Toughie. It is believed that the species became extinct in the wild mainly because of an epidemic of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in its native range.
The very last wild group, or relict, of Panamanian golden frogs were taken into captivity in 2006 to prevent their deaths from Chytridiomycosis infection.
The Cochabamba Natural History Museum has Romeo, who until 2019 was believed to be likely the last Sehuencas water frog. The confirmed population now consists of 6 individuals.
A tank in the Bristol Zoo was the last refuge of Partula faba, a land snail from Ra'iātea in French Polynesia. The population dropped from 38 in 2012 to one in 2015. The last individual died on 21 February 2016.