What is Extinction? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Tammie Mihet

Tammie has taught elementary school for 14 yrs. and holds an MA in Instructional Technology

Do you know that some scientist believe that over 90% of the plants and animals that once lived on earth are now extinct? In this lesson, discover the ins and outs of extinction and gain a deeper understanding of its causes.


You are walking in a natural history museum when a display catches your eye. You walk over to it and discover the most interesting creature, the coelacanth. According to the display, this fish can get as big as you and can live some 2,300 feet below water. The display also states that the coelacanth was once thought to be extinct, but it's not anymore! How is that possible? Let's find out.

Ancient Coelacanth Fossil


Extinction is the dying out or disappearance of a species from earth. Remember, a species is a group of organisms that have common characteristics. Take the Tasmanian Tiger, for example. In 1986, it was declared extinct after the last remaining individual of its species died at a zoo in Tasmania. Since no Tasmanian Tigers were thought to be living, the species was declared extinct.

Animals are not the only thing that can go extinct. Plants can die off too. For example, a tree called lepidodendron, that could grow as tall as a football field is long and had diamond shaped leaves, is now extinct.

Tasmanian Tigers

What Causes Extinction

Extinction is a natural event that has been happening throughout history. What causes a species to go extinct? Something has affected the species' ability to survive in their habitat, to adapt or move to a new habitat, or to reproduce. There are many reasons why this can happen. Let's look at a few of them:

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