27 February 2012

Lazarus Species - Back From The Dead

A Lazarus species is effectively a genus of creature that, just like Lazarus, has been raised from the dead. Sometimes species will appear extinct for a period for time only to resurface and prove that as Geoff Goldblum said in Jurassic Park, 'life, uh... finds a way.'

Lord Howe Island Stick Insect
The Lord Howe Island Stick Insect disappeared around 1930. However 70 years later it made a comeback. Also going by the name of walking sausage and land lobster a group of about 30 of these critters was discovered underneath a single shrub. To be fair though it wasn't surprising they'd not been seen for a while as the shrub was on the islet Ball's Pyramid, the world's tallest and most remote sea stack.


This deep sea living fish had been absent for a little longer than most. About 65 million years. In 1938 though, one literally surfaced off the east coast of South Africa. It is thought that these jawed fish are amongst the oldest known to exist and are closely related to the lungfish.

Monito del Monte

Mammal's are more than capable of doing a 'Lazarus' too. The Monito del Monde is a tiny marsupial that made its grand return after 11 million years thought extinct. One creature was discovered in a bamboo thicket in Chile. It is believed that it is closely related to Australian marsupials and that one event over 45 million years ago caused the split.

La Palma Giant Lizard

This giant lizard (actually about 12" long) was rediscovered in 2007. It was thought it had been extinct for 500 years or more. Since its sighting and the photographic evidence presented it has been confirmed as still alive. The creature seen was believed to have been four years old, yet further sightings have not been forth coming, which suggests any existing population is dangerously small. New expeditions are planned to discover if a breeding population exists and anything can be done to conserve it.

New Holland Mouse

First discovered in 1843, this little fellow was thought extinct for over 100 years before it's rediscovery in the Ku-ring-gau Chase National Park north of Sydney Australia. Despite best efforts the New Holland Mouse still struggles in terms of its population.

Bermuda Petrel

A single colony consisting of 36 birds was discovered on small islets in Castle Harbour. This was the first sighting of a Bermuda Petrel for over 300 years. The 36 birds were nesting pairs and since 1951 when the discovery was made, numbers have increased to over 250, however the conservation battle is still ongoing.

Loatian Rock Rat

There is debate about the background of the Loatian Rock Rat, initially recognised as a rodent when first discovered in 2005, but so different from all living examples an entirely new family was created. However since then it has been reclassified as being part of a rodent family that it was believed had been extinct for 11 million years. Oh, and regarding its discovery, it was spotted being sold as meat in a Laos market...

There you have it the marvellous world we live in. Who knows what previously thought departed beast might surface next...

About today's Guest Writer:
Fred Wright is a keen naturalist and avid reader of National Geographic. He also contributes in the running of the websites Party Portal and Gifts And Cards.