Skip to main content
drawing of two extinct birds

The Great Auk

This is a story of human ignorance, arrogance, stupidity and greed. If we do not learn from it, we are as doomed among the species on Earth as the Great Auk.   

The Great Auk was once a very common bird in the northern hemisphere. The bird could not fly, it was clumsy on land, and was easy to catch for sailors and people who used their feathers.  Professor Gísli Pálsson has found the description of how the last Great Auks were hunted down.

This story was written by egg collector John Wolley and ornithologist Alfred Newton, during their visit to Iceland in the summer of 1858, ten years after the Great Auk disappeared. This story is both a tragedy, but it is also a symbolic story on how greed and ignorance can result in eradication of important animals with large consequences for the food chain and ecological balance forever.

If this extinction of species and ecosystems continues the tipping balance of nature may even threaten humans.

Jens Degett has talked to Professor Gísli Pálsson from the University of Iceland.

Follow Science Stories on: iTunesSpotifySpreakerGoogle PodcastsYouTubeTwitterFacebook, or Instagram.

Science Stories is supported by the Novo Nordisk Foundation.