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  • Killing of animals in excess of requirements; an instance of this. (OED 2004)

    [The military has come up with a new word–‘overkill’. This is the term for the surplus in nuclear weapons beyond the number believed to be necessary to demolish all key Soviet targets.

    Anonymus (1957). The New York Times 2 Sept. 7/2.]


    Other writers have put the blame [for the disappearanceof dinosaurs] on disease, parasites, wars, anatomical or metabolic disorders […], racial old age, evolutionary drift into senescent overspecialization, changes in the pressure or composition of the atmosphere, poison gases, volcanic dust, excessive oxygen from plants, meteorites, comets, gene pool drainage by little mammalian egg-eaters, overkill capacity by predators, fluctuation of gravitational constants, development of psychotic suicidal factors, entropy, cosmic radiation, shift of Earth’s rotational poles, floods, continental drift, extraction of the moon from the Pacific Basin, drainage of swamp and lake environments, sunspots, God’s will, mountain building, raids by little green hunters in flying saucers, lack of even standing room in Noah’s Ark, and paleoweltschmerz.

    Jepsen, G.L. (1964). Riddle of the terrible lizards. American Scientist 52, 227-246: 231.


    the circumstance of a relatively homogeneous hand-axe culture abundantly distributed throughout Africa and disappearing together with some 26 extinct genera roughly 50,000 years ago is quite provocative. Unbalanced megafaunal extinction is encountered in the fossil record only from that part of the Pleistocene when Stone Age hunters or younger cultures are also known. The extinction pattern matches no known world-wide climatic upset. Only on islands were small genera of animals lost. These facts, together with the evidence of strong selection for smaller size and cryptic habits at the time of extinction, point toward prehistoric overkill as the main cause.

    Martin, P.S. (1965). Africa and pleistocene overkill. Nature 212, 339-342: 342.


    There is only a limited number of whales in the sea and the delegates must decide between an irrational short-term overkill or long-term conservation.

    Anonymus (1965). Overkill of whales. New Scientist 841.


    I will use the term “overkill” to indicate the human component in these [Pleistocene] extinctions.

    Grayson, D.K. (1980). Vicissitudes and overkill: the development of explanations of Pleistocene extinctions. Advances in Archaeological Method and Theory 3, 357-403: 367.