Lazarus Taxons: 5 Species That Returned From Extinction

Science Times
Science Times

In the fields of paleontology, biology, or ecology, the term "Lazarus taxon" refers to a species that disappears for a time - either from the fossil records or directly believed to be extinct - only to return at a later time.

Throughout history, animals become irreversibly extinct, which is an unfortunate event. Some are caused by natural occurrences, such as the asteroid impact with the dinosaurs. Others are caused by anthropogenic activities, as the case with the dodo and the Tasmanian tiger.

On the other hand, there are species that are "miraculously" brought back to life, or simply rediscovered by humans. As Jesus Christ raised Lazarus of Bethany from the dead, here are five species that returned from their "extinct" status.

1. Coelacanth
(Photo : Alberto Fernandez Fernandez via Wikimedia Commons) Preserved specimen of chalumnae (also known as Coelacanth) in the Natural History Museum, Vienna, Austria.

Starting the list with the poster species for Lazarus taxons, coelacanths were believed to have died off with the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. After its rediscovery, it was called a living fossil - believed to be a part of a species whose relatives have all turned into fossils - itself evolving from an ancestor from 400 million years ago. However, recent efforts have shown that their physiological features are more diverse than first believed.

2. New Guinea Singing Dog
(Photo : R.G. Daniel via Wikimedia Commons) A New Guinea Singing Dog, singing.

There have been a lot of dog breeds that either evolved to new species or died out in the long run. The New Guinea singing dog, or New Guinea Highland dog, is an ancient breed closely related to the Australian dingo. These dogs are rare in the way they howl, or "sing," which they sometimes do as a pack. The scientific community believed that these are already extinct in the wild, with their last surviving members surviving in captivity. However, a recent study confirmed their presence in the wilderness.

3. Goblin Shark

Goblin sharks - one of the prehistoric terrors of the deep that somehow found its way to the modern world. Scary and pink, it has an electrosensitive trowel-looking beak called rostrum - which it uses to detect weak electric fields emitted by other living creatures. Also, it can protrude its jaw, extending to bite off prey. Tracing its lineage from the family Mitsukurinidae, it was believed to be extinct for a long time - with discoveries of the species sporadically reported from 1898 to as recent as the last decade.

4. Arakan Forest Turtle

While the Arakan Forest Turtle is considered a Lazarus species, it remains critically endangered. The turtles, endemic to western Myanmar's Arakan Hills, were believed to be extinct since 1908. However, the Arakan Forest turtles were found in a food market in 1994, believed to possess medicinal effects. In 2009, a research team rediscovered the turtles in Rakhine Yoma Elephant Range, a protected area in Myanmar. Despite the occasional hunting of locals for the turtles, the site has become the focus of conservation efforts for these turtles.

5. Night Parrot

Some animals are just hard to come by, making people believe that they are extinct. One example is the night parrot, a bird native to Australia. Considered as the "holy grail of birdwatchers," it was first discovered in 1861 by ornithologist John Gould. The sample he found became the holotype for the species. It was, however, remained unseen for more than 100 years before it was rediscovered in 1979.

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