When it comes to food, we’re used to getting what we want. With every conceivable ingredient available at the touch of a few buttons, there seems to be no limit to what we can get a hold of. Unfortunately, thanks to a mixture of evolution and our inability to stop eating, there are some delicious foods that have fallen by the wayside. However much we might grumble, these totally yummy animals are now forever beyond our stomachs. Here are the most delicious extinct foods that we’ll never be able to taste.
1. The Dodo
Famously ill suited for survival in the age of man, the dodo was a slow, flightless relative of the pigeon. With no natural predators on its island home of Mauritius, it had little to fear. However, as soon as hungry sailors arrived, the dodo was doomed. Tasting like a cross between a turkey and a duck, these large birds were delicious additions to the dinner table, while they lasted.
2. Stellar’s Sea Cow
Small populations of manatee and dugong can still be found around the world today. These lumbering, docile creatures have long been afforded protection by justifiably concerned conservationists, in part due to lessons learned from their unfortunate relative. Stellar’s Sea Cow was a giant, growing more than three times larger than any alive today, yet had real difficulty in moving quickly or submerging below the surface. As such, they were mercilessly hunted to extinction by greedy Russian and European sailors who prized their fatty, steak-like flesh.
Today, cattle are perhaps the dominant domesticated creature on earth. However, when farming was still in its infancy, there was another, aggressive relative that freely roamed the plains of Europe. The Eurasian aurochs was a popular game animal for the Romans and often featured as part of coliseum competitions. Hunted for food and sport, this beefy beast became tragically extinct in the early 17th century.
4. Great Auk
Contrary to popular belief, penguins and polar bears never mix. The flightless birds are confined to the southern hemisphere, while the bears are stuck on the rapidly melting Arctic ice. However, until relatively recently, there was a distinctly penguin-like creature that called the north home. The Great Auk stood at around 30 inches tall and was an utterly defenceless underwater specialist that lived in the rocky cliffs of the North Atlantic and Arctic islands. In a slaughter that lasted little over a century, the bird was extinguished by ravenous 19th century sailors, who used them for bait as well as food.
5. Woolly Mammoth
Though humans are not solely to blame for the woolly mammoth’s extinction, we certainly didn’t help. Evidence from early European settlements reveals that humans conducted regular mass mammoth hunts, harvesting enough food to feed whole communities in the process. There are even accounts of lost Arctic explorers sustaining themselves on millennia-old frozen mammoth carcasses in emergencies - though by that point the meat had lost much of its tastiness.
While giant birds such as ostriches and emus are still pretty scary in their own right, for a time we shared the earth with something even more alarming. The moa was an enormous flightless bird that lived in New Zealand until the middle of the 14th century. Standing at more than three-and-a-half metres in height, it was more than a metre taller than the largest ostrich alive today. Unfortunately, the first Maori to arrive on New Zealand quickly discovered that this bird was as delicious as it was gigantic, and it quickly became extinct thanks to human overexploitation.
As all of these animals show, we need to look after the natural world. While it’s easy to take tasty things for granted, if we don’t control ourselves the results will be devastating. Before too long, we could well end up eating ourselves out of existence.