Lazarus taxon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Lazarus taxa)
Jump to: navigation, search
The takahe of New Zealand had not been seen since 1898 when it was 'rediscovered' in 1948.

In paleontology, a Lazarus taxon (plural taxa) is a taxon that disappears for one or more periods from the fossil record, only to appear again later. Likewise in conservation biology and ecology, it can refer to species or populations that were thought to be extinct, and are rediscovered.[1]

The term refers to the story in the Christian biblical Gospel of John, in which Jesus Christ raised Lazarus from the dead.

Potential explanations[edit]

Lazarus taxa are observational artifacts that appear to occur either because of (local) extinction, later resupplied, or as a sampling artifact. The fossil record is inherently sporadic (only a very small fraction of organisms become fossilized, and an even smaller fraction are discovered before destruction) and contains gaps not necessarily caused by extinction, particularly when the number of individuals in a taxon is very low.

After mass extinctions, such as the Permian–Triassic extinction event, the Lazarus effect occurred for many taxa. However, there appears to be no link with the abundance of fossiliferous sites and the proportion of Lazarus taxa, and no missing taxa have been found in potential refuges. Therefore, reappearance of Lazarus taxa probably reflects the rebound after a period of extreme rarity during the aftermath of such extinctions.[2]

Related but distinct concepts[edit]

An Elvis taxon is a look-alike that has supplanted an extinct taxon through convergent evolution.

A zombie taxon is a taxon that contains specimens that have been collected from strata younger than the extinction of the taxon. Later such fossils turn out to be freed from the original seam and refossilized in a younger sediment. For example, a trilobite that gets eroded out of its Cambrian-aged limestone matrix, and reworked into Miocene-aged siltstone.

A living fossil is an extant taxon that appears to have changed so little compared with fossil remains, that it is considered identical. Living fossils may occur regularly in the fossil record, such as the lampshell Lingula, though the living species in this genus are not identical to fossil brachiopods.[3]

Other living fossils however are also Lazarus taxa if these have been missing from the fossil record for substantial periods of time, such as applies for coelacanths.

Finally, the term "Lazarus species" is applied to organisms that have been rediscovered as being still alive after having been widely considered extinct for years, without ever having appeared in the fossil record. In this last case, the term Lazarus taxon is applied in neontology.

Animals that are Lazarus taxa are often cited by cryptozoologists as former cryptids.[4][5]

Reappearing fossil taxa[edit]

Coelacanth Latimeria chalumnae
Lazarus taxa reflect the sporadic nature of the fossil record

Reappearing IUCN red list species[edit]


Café marron Ramosmania rodriguesii.



  • Neptune's Cup (Cliona patera), thought to be extinct from overharvesting in the early 1900s, rediscovered in 2011.[14]




  • Black kokanee (Oncorhynchus nerka kawamurae) Believed extinct in 1940, rediscovered in 2010.
  • Smoothtooth blacktip shark (Carcharhinus leiodon), known only from a specimen caught in 1902, the shark was rediscovered at a fish market in 2008.



Gilbert's potoroo.


Arakan forest turtle.



  • Discus guerinianus, a Madeiran land snail thought extinct in 1996 but found again in 1999.
  • Bermuda land snail (Poecilozonites bermudensis), last recorded sighting made in the early 1970s, survey in 1988 and studies in 2000, 2002, and 2004 seemed to confirm extinction, rediscovered in City of Hamilton alleyway in 2014.

Communication and education[edit]

The lack of public engagement around environmental issue has lead conservationists attempt new and more communication strategies. One of them is the focus on positive messages, of which Lazarus species are an important part [24] One conservation outreach project that has focused exclusively on species rediscoveries is the Lost & Found project which aims to tell the stories of species once thought extinct but that were subsequently rediscovered.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ryan, Gerard; Baker, Christopher (November 2016). "A general method for assessing the risks and benefits of secrecy in conserving 'Lazarus species'". Bioloigical Conservation. 203: 186–187. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2016.09.022. 
  2. ^ Wignall, P. B.; Benton, M. J. (1999). "Lazarus Taxa and Fossil Abundance at Times of Biotic Crisis". Journal of the Geological Society. 156: 453–456. doi:10.1144/gsjgs.156.3.0453. 
  3. ^ Emig, Christian C. (2008). "On the history of the names Lingula, anatina, and on the confusion of the forms assigned them among the Brachiopoda" (PDF). Carnets de Géologie [Notebooks on Geology] (Article 2008/08). 
  4. ^ Shuker, K.P.N. (2002). The New Zoo: New and Rediscovered Animals of the Twentieth Century. House of Stratus. 
  5. ^ *Heuvelmans, Bernard. On The Track Of Unknown Animals. (New York: Hill and Wang, 1959.
  6. ^ Naish, Darren (24 November 2008). "New, obscure, and nearly extinct rodents of South America, and... when fossils come alive". Tetrapod Zoology. Archived from the original on 5 December 2008. Retrieved 13 December 2008. 
  7. ^ "Coelacanths, Coelacanth Pictures, Coelacanth Facts – National Geographic". National Geographic. Retrieved 3 July 2017. 
  8. ^ Weston, Peter H.; Kooyman, Robert M. "Botany and Ecology of the 'Nightcap Oak', Eidothea hardeniana". Australian Plants Online. Retrieved 21 October 2017. 
  9. ^ Approved NSW & National Recovery Plan: Eidothea Hardeniana, Nightcap Oak (PDF). Hurstville: Department of Environment and Conservation (NSW). 2004. pp. 1, 3. ISBN 0 7313 6781 2. 
  10. ^ "Rediscovery of a fossil dolichoderine ant lineage (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Dolichoderinae) and a description of a new genus from South America (PDF Download Available)". ResearchGate. Retrieved 2017-10-25. 
  11. ^ Anita Srikameswaran (15 June 2006). "Retired professor tracks down rodent thought to be extinct". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved Apr 29, 2015. Dr. Dawson and her colleagues... determined that the rock rats belonged to a family called Diatomyidae, whose members were thought to have died off more than 11 million years ago. 
  12. ^ Lemche, Henning 1957. "A new living deep-sea mollusc of the Cambro-Devonian class Monoplacophora". Nature, 179: 413–416, London.
  13. ^ "Wollemia nobilis W.G.Jones, K.D.Hill & J.M.Allen". Kew Gardens. Retrieved 3 July 2017. 
  14. ^ Platt, John R. (17 November 2011). "Amazing Neptune's Cup Sponge Rediscovered in Singapore". Extinction Countdown blog. Scientific American. 
  15. ^ "APNewsBreak: Idaho Scientists Find Fabled Worm," The New York Times, April 27, 2010.
  16. ^ C.A. McGuinness (2004). "Xylotoles costatus". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2004: e.T23161A9424129. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2004.RLTS.T23161A9424129.en. Retrieved 9 January 2018. 
  17. ^ Miguel Carles-Tolrá, Pablo C. Rodríguez & Julio Verdú (2010). "Thyreophora cynophila (Panzer, 1794): collected in Spain 160 years after it was thought to be extinct (Diptera: Piophilidae: Thyreophorini)". Boletín de la Sociedad Entomológica Aragonesa (S.E.A.) 46: 1–7.
  18. ^ Gates, Sara (4 June 2014). "Presumed Extinct Bat Found In Papua New Guinea After 120 Years". Huffington Post. Retrieved 29 April 2015. 
  19. ^ Posa, Mary Rose C. (March 2008). "Hope for threatened tropical biodiversity: lessons from the Philippines". BioScience. 58.3: 231. doi:10.1641/b580309 – via Gale. 
  20. ^ De Vosjoli, Phillipe; Repashy, Allen; Fast, Frank (2003). Rhacodactylus: The Complete Guide to their Selection and Care. Advanced Vivarium Inc. ISBN 978-0-9742971-0-1. 
  21. ^ Gehrman, Rare Birds.
  22. ^ Extraordinary Tale of the Bermuda Petrel and the Man Who Brought It Back from Extinction" (Boston: Beacon Press, 2012).
  23. ^ Ghost Bird 2009.
  24. ^ Veríssimo, Diogo. "Will optimistic stories get people to care about nature?". The Conversation. Retrieved 2017-05-08. 
  25. ^ "'Lost & Found': Telling the stories of rediscovered species". Retrieved 2017-05-08. 

External links[edit]