On July 3, 1844, fishermen killed the last confirmed pair of great auks at Eldey Island, Iceland. The great auk, was a large flightless bird native to the North Atlantic. It once had a population in the millions. For centuries, the penguin-like birds were popular as meat and bait. Their fat, eggs, and feathers were sold as commercial goods. By the 19th century, overhunting threatened the species.
Museums and collectors took an avid interest in the great auk as its population declined, but these early conservation efforts actually contributed to the species’ extinction. Museums sought to preserve and display the mounted skins of great auks, not the auks themselves. The fishermen who killed the last breeding pair were working for a businessman who wanted to sell the specimens to collectors.
Today, the peer-reviewed academic journal of the American Ornithologists Union is named The Auk in honor of the bird and as a reminder of misguided scientific efforts.
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry academic Adjective
person or thing having to do with school, particularly college or university education.
object used to attract something.
to produce offspring.
having to do with the buying and selling of goods and services.
to establish the truth or accuracy of a statement.
management of a natural resource to prevent exploitation, destruction, or neglect.
Encyclopedic Entry: conservation decline Verb
to reduce or go down in number.
to show or reveal.
process of complete disappearance of a species from Earth.
to climb up or get on top of.
total number of people or organisms in a particular area.
to maintain and keep safe from damage.
individual organism that is a typical example of its classification.