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Extinct in the Future

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"What? No Big Belly Burger? It's one of the few perks of living in this time. We're out of cows where I come from."
Eobard Thawne, The Flash (2014)

A common detail used to characterize a futuristic or otherwise crapsack Earth is that a recognizable and/or ubiquitous species in our world is either extinct or critically endangered and on the verge of extinction as a result of disease, pollution, habitat loss, phlebotinum, a past disaster, or just good old human interference. This could be meant as a Green Aesop, to serve as a reminder that Humans Are Bastards, or to easily demonstrate that this world is in bad shape and/or that it is different from our own. Futuristic alternatives to replicate the lost species and/or their ecosystem functions (eg. cloning, genetic engineering, Time Travel, robotic replacements) may come into play as well.

Whales and other sea life are common victims, as they are quite vulnerable to habitat change, pollution, exploitation, and other forces that can drive species to extinction. This can also be used with so-called "charismatic species"note  like tigers and pandas, since these are famous endangered species that are familiar to the general public.

A Sub-Trope of Gaia's Lament, and could lead to Only Electric Sheep Are Cheap, where natural products are more valuable than synthetic products in a hypothetical future, because circumstances have made natural sources difficult to obtain (they may or may not have gone extinct).

Contrast Not So Extinct, where species thought to be extinct show up again. Compare Humanity's Wake for when humans go extinct.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: Thousands of plant and animal species were wiped out by Second Impact, which also rendered the oceans completely barren of life. Shinji’s reaction to meeting Pen-Pen all but confirms it’s the first time he’s even heard of a penguin, much less seen one.

    Comic Books 
  • First Knife is set in a distant future (the 33rd Century to be exact) where an event called the Anthropocene Thermal Maximum killed off a lot of animals. Many of the remaining animals (such as cows and horses) were purged into oblivion by the Devas.
  • A great many animals in Judge Dredd are long extinct, what with the post-apocalyptic state of the world. One story dealt with the death of the last whale.
  • After Regular Show ended its run, there was a six-issue miniseries taking place after the series' conclusion titled Regular Show: 25 Years Later, where Mordecai and Rigby were tricked into surrendering their children to Viceroy Alberich in exchange for becoming 20-something-year-olds again, were forced into teaching Alberich's children to overcome the flaws their father found in them in order to get their own children back, and then end up having to fight against Alberich's forces for 25 years when it turns out Alberich had again manipulated Mordecai and Rigby so he could have his son and daughter trained to lead his conquering armies. At one point, Mordecai and Rigby's aged wives Stef and Eileen ask if they brought any milk. Their husbands explain that they didn't because cows have gone extinct.
  • Y: The Last Man: A year and a half after the plague that wipes out all but two male mammals, embryos, and even sperm, Dr. Allison Mann has a realization that, due to their short lifespans, Pygmy Shrews have gone most likely extinct. Opossums and rats won't be far behind. Rats are seen long after they should have gone extinct, though, suggesting that life found a way to continue after all.

    Fan Works 
  • In Rocketship Voyager this is implied to be the result of factory-farms using every scrap of arable land to grow food to cope with an Overpopulation Crisis.
    • A Space Marine gives the "Come on, you apes!" line, then has to explain what an ape is. "An extinct animal—like you will be if you don't watch your six!"
    • Voyager's vid library includes documentaries on long-vanished species like African lions.
    • Chakotay has an eagle feather in his medicine bundle, a memento of a failed attempt while a teenager to set free the last bald eagle on Earth from its aviary.

    Film — Animation 
  • In the Ice Age short film No Time For Nuts, after Scrat is hurled through time thanks to a small time machine, he ends up in the distant future in front of what appears to be an enormous Oak Tree. However, it turns out just to be a memorial, complete with a plaque that reads "Here Stood the Last Oak Tree."

    Film — Live-Action 
  • The Age of Stupid: By around 2042, half of all species on planet Earth have gone extinct thanks to Global Warming, with one of them being the Indonesian Tree.
  • Avatar: While not shown in theaters, the script and an extended cut for the opening showed life on Earth. All whales and nearly half of all fish species have been wiped out and the last lion living outside of captivity has died in Kenya. However, the Bengal tiger was successfully rescued from extinction via cloning.
  • Blade Runner: All animal species are either extinct or so rare that to own a real one, instead of a replicant version, is lavish expense. Even the daughter of a fantastically wealthy business magnate says that "of course" her pet owl isn't real.
  • Blade Runner 2049: The film indicates that every non-human species has gone extinct on Earth. Or at least, anything bigger than a few insects. The protagonist runs into a single stray dog in the desolate wilderness, but its owner isn't even sure it it's artificial or not.
  • Babylon A.D.: Aurora is saddened to learn from Toorop that tigers have gone extinct in the wild when she observes a tiger pen next to a Russian train station. He explains that they're not "real" tigers, but second-generation clones: copies of copies.
  • Conquest of the Planet of the Apes: Cats and dogs went extinct thanks to a mysterious disease, leaving apes to become the pets and servants of mankind.
  • Cthulhu. The characters observe polar bears at the zoo, but a radio report implies that all wild polar bears have died out. Given what happens at the end of the movie, humanity may well end up in a similar situation.
  • The Bad Future featured in the Sesame Street Christmas special Elmo Saves Christmas, involves a downplayed example with Christmas trees. According to Grover, Christmas trees have become an endangered species after a whole year of non-stop Christmas. Although he then states that they are all gone, as if they are extinct, which could've presumedly mean the Christmas trees would've been functionally extinct.
  • Everything Everywhere All at Once features an Extinct In A Futuristic Alternate Universe variant. Alpha Waymond is overjoyed to taste cream cheese and half-and-half milk in "our" Evelyn's universe because cows were wiped out in his world during the war against Jobu Tupaki.
  • In Logan, taking place in 2029, a villain remarks that the claw marks on Logan's victims look like they were done by a tiger or by Freddy Krueger, except the former is extinct and the latter is fictional.
  • Quintet is set in a future where Earth is in a permanent ice age, and all life, including humans, is slowly dying out. Even seals and presumably other cold adapted animals are now extinct, as the cold was too much for even them to survive.
  • A Sound of Thunder: The reason given for time travel being used to hunt dinosaurs is that, get this, all animal species are extinct by 2055. This is mentioned in only one scene and is never referenced again. It also raises many more questions than it solves. Also, apparently, no one bothered to preserve the DNA of animals before they went extinct. The protagonist has to use a self-made scanner to obtain DNA readings on animals in the past, in order to see if they can be cloned (he somehow gets readings on a lion despite the machine set to go to a time before lions even existed).
  • Soylent Green: This becomes Played for Drama. By 2022, the environmental situation has gotten so bad, the entire ocean's plankton, which the Soylent made its foodstuffs from, is dead. They're making food out of corpses because the situation is that desperate.
  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: While Star Trek's Earth is generally positive, humpback whales went extinct sometime in the 21st century. Which becomes a problem for Earth when an alien probe arrives wanting to talk to them.
  • Terminal City Ricochet: In the Crapsack World the film is set in, birds are nearly extinct. The mere sighting of a starling outside of town is a newsworthy event, and the trees outside Glimore's vacation home in the woods are fitted with speakers that play recordings of birds.

  • Isaac Asimov's "Two Four Three Zero AD": The premise of this story takes species extinction up a notch, as the last zoo on Earth is shut down. This leaves humanity as the sole animal species on Earth, with the only other life forms being the plankton used for food.
  • A Bad Future variation appears in the Animorphs novel "The Message". Ax reveals that all species of life on Earth will be wiped out by the Yeerks, except for those required to feed their human hosts, if they succeed in taking over Earth. Fortunately, the Animorphs manage to stop the Yeerk invasion before it succeeds at the end of the series.
  • In Breakfast of Champions, Kilgore Trout, whose earlier stories were published in pornographic magazines with covers luridly advertising "wide-open beavers," mentions in a Flash Forward to 1979 that he "mourned especially when the last beaver died."
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: In the aftermath of World War Terminus, many species are completely extinct, like frogs. Even the animals still alive, like sheep and goats, are rare enough that owning one is a major status symbol.
  • In the 30th century depicted in the Doctor Who New Adventures novel "So Vile a Sin", many iconic animal species are extinct. Specific mention is made of a project to resurrect the African elephant through genetic engineering.
  • The introduction to Expedition notes that pretty much all megafauna is at the brink of extinction, claiming that, barring humans, nothing larger than the Norway rat exists outside of zoos, and even the animals in zoos are badly mutated.
  • The Familias Regnant novel "Hunting Party" revolves around a futuristic country house party featuring a fox hunt as one of the entertainments. It's mentioned that real foxes went extinct long ago, so the foxes they're hunting were genetically engineered by mixing genes from several similar species.
  • Connie Willis's "Fire Watch" about time-traveling historians (including Doomsday Book, Blackout, and To Say Nothing of the Dog) feature this. Cats have been wiped out by a plague by the 2050s, and characters time travelling back to World War II are fascinated when they encounter them. In the end of To Say Nothing of the Dog, some are brought back via Time Travel.
  • Generation A has bees (seemingly) going extinct, resulting in mass extinction of many plant species (with others kept alive through hand pollination).
  • In Larry Niven's Hanville Svetz short stories, the title character is sent back in time to obtain specimens of creatures that no longer exist in the future, such as horses and Gila monsters ("Get a Horse!"/"The Flight of the Horse"), sperm whales ("Leviathan!") and wolves ("There's a Wolf in My Time Machine").
  • In The History Of Bees by Maja Lunde, bees have been obliterated in 2098. As a result, humans are now pollinating crops by hand.
  • Lumbanico The Cubic Planet: Many animal species of animals (like horses) and plants (like strawberry trees, or cork and holm oaks) became extinct in Lumbanico due to an environmental disaster known as the Black Cloud seven centuries ago.
  • Mortal Engines: Blue whales are mentioned to have been extinct for thousands of years in the first chapter, presumably as a result of most of the world's oceans drying up or moving elsewhere during the Sixty Minute War.
  • Oryx and Crake: the titular species along with many others, such as polar bears, are extinct.
  • In Pocket Monsters: The Animation, it's stated that this is the reason why real-life animals aside from humans usually don't appear in the Pokémon universe. Most are extinct or near-extinction. An early draft of the third movie would have explored this further by having a plot revolving around a revived dinosaur fossil.
  • In the 24th century of Post-Self many species have gone extinct in the physical world, such as fennec foxes, though the 200-year old uploaded furry Dear still depicts itself as an anthropomorphized fennec.
  • The Time Machine: In the tropical world of 802,701 AD, horses, cattle, sheep, dogs, pest animals and plants, predators, most insects, fungi, and diseases have all gone extinct. The Time Traveler considers the eradication of the latter groups to be a positive achievement for humanity's engineering of the environment, rather than the ecological disaster it would be.
  • In David Brin's Uplift series chimpanzees and dolphins are being uplifted by humanity, but orangutans and a number of whale species are extinct, a fact that humans try not to mention around highly conservationist aliens.
  • In The Wolf Chronicles' Distant Finale epilogue, it is mentioned that the ice caps have melted and polar bears have gone extinct.
  • World War Z: The ecosystem was badly damaged during the war and marine species were subject to exploitation. All species of sub-arctic baleen whales were wiped out before the end of the war. Additionally, slow-moving land species like turtles are now a rare sight.
  • In the Sprawl Trilogy, horses are extinct from an equine plague, and even attempts to revive them via cloning have failed.

    Live-Action TV 
  • According to Rafael, zebras and lions no longer exist in the future in which 3% is set.
  • One episode of Andromeda mentions that the common house cat has been extinct for thousands of years.
  • The Black Mirror episode "Hated in the Nation".
    • By the time of the episode, most of the bees have been wiped out by a colony collapse disorder, forcing humanity to rely on robotic replacements called Automated Drone Insects to do the bees' ecosystem services. The plot is about someone hacking these ADIs to great consequence.
    • A news broadcast also reveals that the Siberian crane (critically endangered at the time of the episode's release) was just declared extinct.
  • Cowboy Bebop (2021). When Spike and Jet first lay eyes on Ein, they stare at the Welsh corgi in fascination because dogs are incredibly rare, as only the rich could afford to bring their pets with them during the Homeworld Evacuation.
  • By the time Endlings takes place (2040), lions and rhinos are already extinct, and there is only one elephant left alive.
  • The Flash (2014):
    • Eobard Thawne comes from a future where cows are extinct, which has led him to have a hamburger obsession while living in the present.
    • On Earth-19, coffee plants were wiped out and are no longer available. H.R. has a borderline addiction to coffee on Earth-1, while Gypsy isn't much better and ends up smuggling several sacks of coffee beans back to her Earth.
  • Game of Thrones is the future to House of the Dragon, and dragons went extinct in-between the two time periods, at least until Daenerys Targaryen magically revived and hatched three dragon eggs.
  • On The Last Man on Earth, a virus wipes out not only most of humanity but almost all animal life as well. This is really brought home when Phil and Carol go to Malibu and find dozens of dead whales washed up on the beach.
  • Logan's Run: In "Futurepast", it is revealed that many bird species, including the white dove, are either extinct or critically endangered due to the radiation in the atmosphere after the nuclear holocaust in 2119.
  • The Outer Limits (1995):
    • In "Dark Matters", set at an indeterminate point in the future, dogs are seemingly an endangered species as one was included among the zoo animals being shipped by the commercial transport ship Nestor.
    • In "Stasis", most species of plants are either extinct or endangered.
    • In "Think Like a Dinosaur", most plants and trees on Earth are extinct and fresh air is a thing of the past due to the high level of pollution in the atmosphere.
  • The third story arc of Sapphire and Steel features a family of time travelers from a distant future where all animal life on Earth is extinct.
  • Star Trek:
  • In Fringe, the Alternate Universe has suffered serious ecological deterioration as a result of tears. Several animal species, such as sheep and wallabies, have died out, while a blight is killing off plant life in huge quantities; coffee and avocados are rare commodities.
  • In the Sliders episode “Double Cross”, Congress in Logan’s World has recently placed horses on the endangered species list.
  • Cows go extinct during the second episode of Snowpiercer, when an avalanche breaks the windows of the train's cattle car, freezing the animals and humans on board in seconds. It's unclear if all the cattle in Snowpiercer's agricultural section were on that one car, or if the disaster merely reduced their numbers below the point of genetic recovery; either way, it's described as an "extinction-level event".
  • Supplementary material for Westworld advertises "The Raj", a theme park modeled on late 19th-early 20th century India, as a place where tourists can hunt robotic duplicates of "the animals that cannot be found in our world anymore". It's not specified, but the park has robot elephants, tigers, and peacocks at least.

  • "Robots" by Flight of the Conchords takes place in the distant future of 2000, where all elephants and humans are dead.
  • In the music video for "E.T." by Katy Perry, a plastic case containing a pigeon skeleton reads: 'A common bird, went extinct 2030'.
  • "No such thing" by Kathy Mar (composed by Zanda Myrande) is entirely built on this trope: in a distant future, a kid is admonished by her parent for making up silly fantasy creatures when she says she sees dolphins, whales and seals in the clouds. In the second verse it's revealed that her parent lied to her out of shame, because they couldn't bear to tell her that the previous generations drived all sea creatures to extinction, while polluting the air to the point that humanity is now forced to live under crystal domes.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Awesomenauts: Cocoa plants have gone extinct by the year 3587, apparently somehow due to a time-traveler coming from the future to get cocoa beans. It is the holy mission of the Gelati people to find a living cocoa plant to create their royal ice cream, stracciatella.
  • BlazBlue: due to the calamity caused by the Black Beast and the Dark War, the lower elevations of the world (including the seas) have been heavily polluted by Seithr, causing the sea life and several other animals to go extinct.
  • Cyberpunk 2077: In keeping with the setting, the environment is in shambles and many species have gone extinct. In one news report, it's mentioned that Omega, the last living koala, has recently passed away.
  • In Dead Space 2, bees, dolphins, hippos, bears, chimpanzees, eagles, giraffes, elephants, wolves and penguins are all extinct. An advertisement on Titan Station describes a toy line for them called Extinct Animal Friends.
  • In Detroit: Become Human, a magazine article about the first android zoo states that it exhibits "all exotic species" that went extinct over the past 30 years, specifically mentioning lute turtles, African elephants, mountain gorillas, polar bears, and several unspecified tiger species. A different magazine mentions the impending extinction of bees and the potential of android bees filling in their role.
  • A conversation between two NPCs in Deus Ex reveals that grizzly bears have been extinct for decades.
  • Fallout:
    • In Fallout: New Vegas, Mr. House mentions that cats are extinct, although it conflicts with previous and future lore—in Fallout 2 cats are mentioned as being hunted for their meat, while Fallout 4 shows cats in person. Considering that Mr. House only sees the outside world through his Securitrons, it's possible that he assumed cats are extinct because there's none in the Mojave wasteland.
    • In a dialogue with Rose of Sharon Cassidy, the Courier says that he doesn't know what a fish is. Fishes are not extinct in the Fallout universe (in game, some can even be found in Lake Mead), but considering that someone would not know what a fish is, it implies that they are at least at risk of extinction.
  • Half-Life 2 takes place twenty years after the Portal Storms caused by the Resonance Cascade teleported so much alien life to Earth that they wiped out most of the native species. The Combine's invasion and exploitation of the planets resources certainly didn't help matters. The only Earth animals seen are birds and barnacles, though crabs, cats, and horses are mentioned, so it's possible they've survived as well.
  • Horizon Zero Dawn: the game is set several centuries in the future and Mechanical Lifeforms have become especially prominent, replacing many larger animals and being hunted by humans both for practical reasons and for sport. It turns out that it's not just some animals that became extinct but all of them, including humans—a Grey Goo apocalypse took place c. 2064 which humans of the time couldn't stop, only slow down long enough to develop an AI that would devise a way to stop the hostile machines and then clone humans and other animals back into existence. Even so, many are still gone such as wolves, deer, bears, and moose. It's implied that the AI and its support programs intentionally designed many of the machines to resemble now-extinct animals because they were sad that they were gone.
  • I Was a Teenage Exocolonist: In Humanities, Congruence mentions that by the time the Stratospheric left Earth, the latter was past the point where both bees and everything they were pollinating had gone extinct.
  • The Video Game adaptation of Phantom 2040 features a wildlife memorial with tributes to several extinct animals, including pandas, lions, gorillas, wild boar, kangaroos, mountain goats, snakes, giant turtles, crocodiles and dolphins. A black panther which is believed to be the Last of Its Kind also serves as a MacGuffin in the early part of the story.
  • Inverted in Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time with the Dodo Rider Zombie encountered in the Frostbite Caves. The world takes place during the ice age far before the dodos' extinction by hunting. Its Almanac description shows that the rider imp proclaims that dodos are the future of transportation, while his detractors tell him there's no future in them.
  • Subnautica: According to the PDA of the Cuddlefish, dolphins have gone extinct.
  • In the Touhou Project series, the future world of Maribel Hearn and Renko Usami has had many edible plant species go extinct, forcing them to artificially create some foods.
  • In XCOM 2, after taking over Earth, the aliens exterminated most animals. Lily Shen raises the question of where Advent Burgers come from if cows don't exist anymore.
  • In Technobabylon, tigers are mentioned to have gone extinct by 2087. One possible reason is that India is a radioactive hellhole.
  • In TerraGenesis, it is mentioned coral reefs died out by mid-21st century.
  • In the Wipeout series, tigers went extinct at some point, but fortunately the Nature Hero team Harimau helped them come back through cloning. A track description in Pulse mentions "the last remaining coral reefs," so it looks like Harimau's still got some work to do...

  • Unsounded: Since the Ssaelit religion adopted the lion as a symbol of their Deity of Human Origin's martyrdom and ascension, the rival Gefendur church hunted lions to extinction in an unsuccessful attempt to demoralize them.
  • One xkcd comic has a time traveller from the distant future come to our time to learn about spiders, which have been extinct long enough by their time that only fossil records remain. Played with in that the point of this exchange is not to show the state of the future, but rather, how poorly fossils can really depict a species as it was when it was alive.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama: Pine trees, poodles, cows, white rhinos, wheels, human ghosts, the French language, and anchovies are all extinct by the year 3000. The last becomes a plot point when a recently rich Fry buys the last can of anchovies in existence and Mom schemes to get the can from him because anchovy oil is a threat to her oil empire. When Fry announces his intention of eating the can (because anchovy pizza is his favorite), she happily lets him do so. It was Zoidberg's race who ate the anchovies to extinction in the first place and Zoidberg goes into a frenzy after he eats the rest of Fry's anchovy pizza.
  • The Captain Planet and the Planeteers episode "Gorillas Will Be Missed" starts in a future where gorillas are extinct.
  • Love, Death & Robots: In "Three Robots", the robots note that by the time humanity went extinct, they had collapsed most of the food chains and hunted every animal "larger than a cat" to extinction.
  • This happens to be the case in Milo Murphy's Law. While the series seems to take place in the present day, the time travelling syndicate that operates in the background reveals that pistachios are extinct by the year 2085. Dakota and Cavendish are tasked with trying to remedy this but given what happened when they succeeded, they end up believing that they're better off extinct.
  • The Simpsons:
    • The Flash Forward episode "Lisa's Wedding" has a holographic image of a tree shown with the description "In memory of a real tree", as apparently all real ones are extinct.
    • In a later Flash Forward episode "Mr. Lisa's Opus", a grown-up Lisa mentions that rhinos are extinct.
  • Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts takes place in a distant future wherein non-human animals have mutated into either sapient mutes (typically around human-sized) or non-sapient mega-mutes (typically building-sized with extra body parts). Season 3 reveals that the animals that didn't mutate are extinct. They are able to clone non-mutated animals from fossils, but they only do so once, in an attempt to recreate the mutation so they'll know how to cure it.