Reblogging, because someone searched for this today, and this was a cool post!

The Waterthrush Blog

The Great Auk was a large, flightless seabird from the North Atlantic that was hunted to extinction in 1844. The birds were easy to exploit from their remote nesting colonies, where sailors were said to sometimes simply herd the live birds up gangplanks and into their boats. The birds provided a source of fresh meat on long voyages, and were a welcome relief from hard tack. The large eggs were also collected for food, and auk down provided insulation. Once humans developed the ability to reliably sail to nesting colonies of Great Auks, the species was headed down the all-too-familiar path of exploitation that leads to extinction.

Their superficial resemblance to penguins is a wonderful example of convergent evolution, i.e., unrelated species developing through natural selection similar strategies to solve similar problems. In this case, both penguins (order Sphenisciformes) and auks or alcids (order Charadriiformes – this includes…

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