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What we can learn from extinct species at work

What we can learn from extinct species at work

Charles Darwin was a genius who won the Nobel prize for his then-groundbreaking theory and extensive documentation about the possibility, now accepted as scientifically proven, that all known species of everything alive evolved from species that came before. [1] [12]

Image depicting similarities among primate bodies and skeletons

His evolutionary theory has become widely accepted by educators and is commonly taught as the de facto explanation for how all life came to be in its modern form. It is also often cited as “proof” that creationist religious theories are false. [2]

Darwin’s theory also seeks to explain the end of species. Available lists catalog hundreds of species that became extinct in the last few hundred years. [4] Far more species have come and gone before. [11]

Some theorists surmise that the world is entering a mass extinction, with many thousands of species expected to become extinct in the next hundred years. [10] Geologic records indicate five mass extinctions that came before. [1] [2]

I am concerned that this won’t end well.

While I’m concerned this won’t end well, I’m also aware that we can’t really know how this will end (or not) while we’re in the middle of it, so I’m offering whatever we know about alternatives.

Sometimes humans are clueless about extinct species.

It’s also possible that, while we can identify the role of humans in many modern extinctions, humans are simply coincidental in the ongoing series of mass extinction events.

Maybe even more compelling is the understanding that humans arrogantly believe we can identify with certainty the final member of any given species that may reside across millions of square miles of earth or millions of cubic miles of ocean, lake, and river. [9]

Some extinct species are found again.

Here are at least two dozen species formerly believed extinct that we have found alive again: [5] [6] [7] [8]

Nonetheless, the trend is going the wrong way.

Despite finding only a couple of dozen species that we formerly believed extinct, there are hundreds of species that have recently “disappeared” and thousands more in decline.

While our human species continues to grow in number, can that continue sustainably?

What we can learn from extinct species at work

A key element of Darwin’s theories was the idea of “natural selection,” that some species are more or less fit for survival, and those less fit eventually don’t survive.

There’s a concept called adaptation by which species change or “evolve” over time to better adapt to the circumstances.

  • Sometimes changes in the environment happen too fast for the species to adapt to the change.
  • Sometimes circumstances change and a formerly less useful adaptation becomes more useful. For example, peppered moths had both white and black members of the species. Prior to the industrial revolution, white individuals thrived, and as smoke and coal soot became more prolific through the industrial revolution, the black individuals because more common, since their color enabled them to blend in more readily, while the white individuals became easier to spot and be eaten by birds. [13]

At least three important things we can learn from extinct species

There are at least three important things to learn here:

  1. We, humans, can observe and monitor our environments thoughtfully. As we do, we can be thoughtful about changes. Over time, we can become aware of the trends of changes. For example, if our business routinely lays off people over time, we may see a pattern. Yet a more astute observer may notice that the layoffs are in certain areas, and also recognizing growth in other areas of the same business — which are common — may thoughtfully choose to better align him- or herself with those growth areas and away from the areas that are shrinking.
  2. We also appear to have a higher degree of self-awareness than most or all other species. That is to say, we have specific knowledge of the things we know and of the things we don’t know. We also have an awareness of our habits, both good and bad, at least when we choose to look. The point here is that we can choose to learn from and adapt to our environment by intentionally abandoning unhelpful traits and behaviors and intentionally developing more useful traits and behaviors. For example, we can choose to de-emphasize certain skills and experiences on our resumes, and we can choose to continue to learn more useful, more modern, and more in-demand skills, including skills beyond our current career path.
  3. Many species intentionally adapt to changing environments or circumstances, and that adaptation occurs as individuals do whatever is necessary to survive. Furthermore, some individuals of some species manage to hit the mother lode for lifestyle, for example, when the birds stake out the restaurant patio and continually grab food off abandoned plates, or when bears take up residence at human dump sites.

While all humans will survive, some humans find a way to improve their quality of life significantly.

One way to do this is through the Career Acceleration Academy.

Learn more at https://dylancornelius.com.


[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Darwin

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution

[3] https://naturalhistory.si.edu/education/teaching-resources/paleontology/extinction-over-time

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_extinct_species\

[5] https://gizmodo.com/7-extinct-species-that-eventually-reappeared-1846514816

[6] https://abcnews.go.com/US/back-abyss-animal-species-resurfaced-2019-feared-lost/story?id=67886215

[7] https://www.ecowatch.com/extinct-animals-rediscovered-2647411089.html

[8] https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/10-animals-that-were-rediscovered-after-they-were-believed-to-be-extinct.html

[9] https://theconversation.com/why-extinct-species-seem-to-be-returning-from-the-dead-113067

[10] https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/biodiversity/decline-and-extinction/

[11] https://www.encyclopedia.com/daily/is-it-true-that-99-9-of-all-species-are-extinct/

[12] https://theconversation.com/guide-to-the-classics-darwins-on-the-origin-of-species-96533

[13] https://theconversation.com/natural-selection-in-black-and-white-how-industrial-pollution-changed-moths-43061#:~:text=Throughout%20the%20industrial%20revolution%2C%20people,this%20puzzling%20change%20in%20abundance.

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About me
Dylan Cornelius
Dylan Cornelius

Hi, I'm Dylan Cornelius.

I help mid-career knowledge workers and entrepreneurs execute their strategic plans using the career acceleration blueprint, even if they don't know where to start, they've never been a manager, and don't have a team. I'm the creator of the Career Acceleration Academy.

I've led small and large collocated and remote teams, delivering more than $40 million in revenues and cost savings. My teams and I have delivered ground-breaking products and services that still power successful businesses today.

I've worked as a recruiter, manager, and team leader in Silicon Valley and around the world. I have more than 30 years of experience in business management and leadership, plus psychology and business degrees from top universities.

I'm glad you're here! Take a look around and let me know what help you need.

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