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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.

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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.

Contrast Species Lost and Found, where species thought to be extinct show up in modern-day society. Compare Humanity's Wake for when humans go extinct.


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Examples

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    Anime and Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • 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.

    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."
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    Film — Live Action 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home: While Star Trek's Earth is generally positive, whales went extinct sometime in the 21st century. Which becomes a problem for Earth when an alien probe arrives wanting to talk to them.
  • 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.

    Literature 
  • Isaac Asimov's "2430 A.D.": The premise of this story takes species extinction Up to Eleven, 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 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.
  • Blue whales are mentioned to have been extinct for thousands of years in the first chapter of Mortal Engines, 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 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • In 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.
  • Fringe: In the Alternate Universe, sheep and wallabies died out sometime around 2001, along with presumably many other species.
  • 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.

    Music 
  • "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'.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Implied in Mega Man X, Mega Man Zero, and Mega Man ZX. In the future world where robots are aplenty, many of the bosses are robots themed after animals, which may imply that many animals have 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 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.

    Webcomics 
  • 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.

    Western Animation 
  • Futurama: Pine trees, poodles, cows, and anchovies are all extinct by the year 3000.
  • The Captain Planet and the Planeteers episode "Gorillas Will Be Missed" starts in a future where gorillas are extinct.
  • 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.
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