23 September — 12:00 noon — GAR 4.100 (4th floor of Garrison Hall)

Lydia Pyne

“Endlings: Fables for the Anthropocene” 

An endling is the last known individual of a species; when that individual dies, the species becomes extinct. These “last individuals” are poignant characters in the stories that humans tell themselves about today’s Anthropocene. In this talk, Lydia Pyne will draw from her recent book of the same title (University of Minnesota Press, 2022) to explore how our accounts of endlings draw on deep traditions of storytelling across a variety of narrative types that go well beyond the science of these species’ biology or their evolutionary history. The story of endlings touches on a range of big questions: how species start and how (and why) they end, what it means to be a “charismatic” species, the effects of rewilding, and what makes species extinction different in this era. From Benjamin the thylacine to Celia the ibex to Lonesome George the Galápagos tortoise, endlings have the power to shape how we think about grief, mourning, and loss amid the world’s sixth mass extinction.


Lydia Pyne is a writer and historian interested in the history of science and material culture. She has degrees in history and anthropology and a PhD in biology (history and philosophy of science) from Arizona State University. Her field and archival work has ranged through South Africa, Ethiopia, and Uzbekistan, as well as the American Southwest.

Pyne’s writings have appeared in The AtlanticNautilusSlateHistory Today, Hyperallergic, and TIME, as well as Archaeology. She is the author of Postcards: The Rise and Fall of the World’s First Social Network (Reaktion, 2021), Genuine Fakes: How Phony Things Can Teach Us About Real Stuff (Bloomsbury, 2019),  Seven Skeletons: The Evolution of the World’s Most Famous Human Fossils (Viking, 2016), Bookshelf (Bloomsbury, 2016), and, with Stephen J. Pyne, The Last Lost World: Ice Ages, Human Origins, and the Invention of the Pleistocene (Viking, 2012). She is currently a visiting researcher at the Institute for Historical Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.