Is there an example of any animals or insects that have evolved too efficiently and went extinct due to upsetting the homeostasis of their environment? Outside humans.

I was thinking about venomous snakes when a fruit fly landed on me while having a libation in my garden. Then I got to wondering about why, for instance, a fly that eats rotting flesh wouldn't develop a potent neurotoxin on its feet? What a terryfying creature! Then I considered that perhaps a fly could have existed like that but it quickly may have say killed all of it's food sources gone extinct. Are there any known examples like this in animals or insects?

  • $\begingroup$ For neurotoxin on the feet, consider that after killing the creature it lands on, the fly would have to wait around for a significant portion of its lifespan for the flesh to rot before it could eat it. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Aug 11 '21 at 4:03
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Or it could just be immune to its own toxin. Perhaps more importantly is that its a waste of energy to produce toxin that just gets smeared everywhere you go. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Aug 14 '21 at 1:55
  • $\begingroup$ @DKNguyen: I meant that since flies typically live only a matter of weeks, and it takes at least days for flesh to rot, a fly that eats rotten flesh would have to wait around a long time for something it killed to become edible. It'd be like a lion killing an antelope, but not being able to eat it until a year later. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Aug 15 '21 at 4:10
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Flies don't need to eat rotten flesh. They just do because they are scavengers. They eat plant matter too. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Aug 15 '21 at 4:11


early photosynthesizers, which would have been adapted for a reducing atmosphere, drove themselves extinct as they dumped oxygen into the atmosphere as a waste product. They were incredibly successful because they could live off of little more than the three of the most common materials on the planet. Eventually the oxygen built up to the point mostly only oxygen tolerant or later oxygen using organisms survived.


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    $\begingroup$ I think this is a good canonical example, though the answer would be improved with a reference. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Aug 12 '21 at 16:37

Going exinct hardly counts for being successful. Let us, take, e.g., Ebola - a virus that is efficiently transmitted and quickly replocates, but ends up killing most of the hosts. It quickly goes extinct, because there are no hosts lefts for its replication. If Ebola still survives, it is because it infects animals other than humans, for whom it is elss lethal.

A similar example is small pox, which was less lethal than ebola and therefore continued to circulate in human populatiosn for thousands of years... but became extinct once vaccinces were developed.

On the other hand, flu and cold keep circulating in human populatiosn since time immemorial, and it is not likely that they will be going extinct any time soon, becaus ethey have developed a way of co-existing with their hosts.


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