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  • Paul Anthony Jones


(n.) the last surviving individual of a species

last surviving thylacine, benjamin in Hobart Zoo 1933

A surprisingly touching word ended the week as the most popular on HH: an endling is the last surviving individual of a species. And, by means of an example, attached to that word was a famous photograph of Benjamin the thylacine—who died, the last of his kind, in Hobart Zoo, Tasmania, in 1936:

The word endling was apparently coined as recently as 1996, in an letter published in the scientific journal Nature that sought to find a word for precisely this phenomenon. Terminarch, ender and relict were also put forward (though strictly speaking a relict is a sole surviving population, not an individual), but it was endling that caught on: a display of a thylacine skin in the National Museum of Australia in 2001 gave the word the seal of approval, and it has remained in use ever since.

As for the thylacine, it is perhaps better known as the “Tasmanian tiger” (though not the “Tasmanian devil”, which is an entirely different creature).

Once native to Australia and New Guinea, the thylacine was the largest known carnivorous marsupial; indeed, as a marsupial, the name thylacine derives from a Greek word, thylakos, meaning “pouch” or “sack”. The last wild individual was shot by a farmer in 1930, and with the death of Benjamin in 1936 the species vanished from the face of the earth. Apparently...

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