A Lazarus species, also known as a Lazarus taxon, is a taxon or species that was thought to be extinct but was later rediscovered. This effect is also known as the Lazarus effect.
The term Lazarus taxon is named after Lazarus, a deceased man who, according to the Bible, was brought back to life by Jesus.
There is a difference between species of which only fossil remains had been found and had never been seen alive, but were later rediscovered (such as number 7 and number 1 on our list), or species that had been seen alive, then declared extinct, but were later seen alive again (such as the other species on our list).
In this list, we describe 10 species that were thought to be extinct but were later rediscovered.
10. Dryococelus Australis
This insect, belonging to the stick insects, has no official Dutch name. In English, it is called the Tree Lobster. This is not without reason, as its appearance is reminiscent of a lobster.
It is a large insect, reaching a body length of about 15 centimeters. Females are typically slightly larger than males, and the insects weigh about 25 grams on average. They have no wings and therefore cannot fly. The immature insects are green and active during the day, but as they mature, they get a dark color and are only active at night.
There used to be a large population on Lord Howe Island, but the insect was used by the local population as fishing bait. In addition, the black rat was introduced during the shipwreck of the SS Makambo in 1918.
In 1920, the insect was no longer seen and was thought to be extinct, until in 2001, 24 specimens were discovered on the uninhabited rocky island of Ball’s Pyramid. In 2003, four specimens were taken from the rock and a breeding program was set up. In 2008, 20 bred animals were released into a special habitat on the island.
9. Hula painted frog
This brown-green frog lived in the Hula Valley in Northern Israel and can grow about 5 to 8 centimeters long. The species was discovered in 1940 and described in 1943. The first specimen found was eating a conspecific. This led to speculation that the Palestinian disc-tongued frog might be cannibalistic.
The Hula Valley was drained to combat malaria and to convert it into agricultural land. This led to a reduction in the frog’s habitat, and since 1955 the Palestinian disc-tongued frog has not been observed. Search efforts were undertaken, but without success, and in 1996 the frog was therefore declared extinct. In 2011, the frog was found by ranger Yoram Malka, after he had searched for the frog for years. In November 2011, a second specimen was found in the same area.
Since the discovery of the first specimen, at least 10 specimens have been found in the same area. The Israeli Nature Authority suspects that the number of Palestinian disc-tongued frogs has increased after more water was brought into the region three years ago to repair ecological damage.
8. South Island Takahe
This flightless bird is about 63 centimeters long and weighs about 3 kilograms. The bird is green-blue in color with a red head and red legs. These birds form a pair for life and nest on the ground among the grass, making them easy prey for predators. This was also the reason why the species declined sharply in numbers due to the introduction of stoats.
In 1900, the species was considered extinct. In 1948, a small population of the species was rediscovered in the southwest of the South Island. Thanks to active nature management, such as the control of exotic predators, the number of birds was estimated at 200 in 2016. The animal is still threatened, but it is hoped that the population can be increased in the future, increasing the number of the species and reducing the threat.
Marjorie Courtney-Latimer was called and she was tasked with examining the fish. She thought it was a coelacanth, but she called James Leonard Brierley Smith for confirmation and further investigation. His research confirmed that it was a coelacanth, and the species was named after him. Smith then went in search of more specimens, and in 1952 a specimen was caught near the Comoros.
Between 1988 and 2007, multiple sightings of coelacanths were made. In 2007, nine specimens were even discovered near Japan. Today, two species of coelacanths are known, but both species are endangered. Research is being conducted to see if the populations around South Africa can be designated as a third species.
6. Cropani’s Tree Boa
Corallus cropanii, or in English, Cropani’s tree boa, is a boa that lives in the state of São Paulo in Brazil. The snake is a constrictor and, like other boas, is not venomous. No subspecies of this species have been described to date.
In 1953, the species was last seen alive, and only 5 dead specimens were collected, until in 2017 a female specimen measuring 1 meter 70 was seen alive. It was captured by the local population and handed over to an institute and a museum, which then attached a transmitter to the animal. The snake is viviparous, meaning that it does not lay eggs but the young leave the mother alive. This snake species lives in the forest.
5. Fernandina Galapagos Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis Phantasticus)
For a long time, this species was considered extinct, as this giant tortoise had not been observed since 1906. The species lived on Fernandina Island, one of the Galapagos Islands.
In 2019, a specimen was observed again. DNA analysis revealed that the species of the 2019 specimen matched that of 1906. The giant tortoise is therefore over 100 years old and managed to stay well hidden from researchers and predators.
Previously, this species was seen as a subspecies of the Galapagos giant tortoise, but after DNA research, this species is considered a separate species. Although another specimen has been found and there is hope that more specimens of the species exist, there is no reason to celebrate yet. The species is critically endangered and may become extinct again in the future.
4. Caatinga Woodpecker
The caatinga woodpecker is a woodpecker that only occurs in Brazil. The name of the bird comes from Caatinga, a dry steppe area. The male has a distinctive appearance with bright colors and a striking crest. Until 2005, the species was considered a subspecies of the orange-headed woodpecker, but from then on, the caatinga woodpecker was recognized as a separate species.
From 1920, the species was no longer seen and was thought to be extinct, but in 2006 the species was observed again. The population was estimated at a maximum of 250 individuals, but more sightings were made in 2010 and the estimate was raised to 350 to 4000 individuals. However, there is still no reason to celebrate for this species. The bird’s habitat is decreasing due to deforestation for soy cultivation and the construction of infrastructure.
3. Madagascar Pochard
This bird was discovered in 1894 and, as the name suggests, lives only on the island of Madagascar. The difference with other ducks is the white iris of the male, hence the name. Females and young birds lack the white iris.
The duck existed until 1940 on Lake Alaotra, but in the 1940s and 1950s, the number of the species decreased dramatically. It got so bad that in 1960 only 20 birds were observed. In addition, a male was shot, and this specimen ended up in the collection of the Zoological Museum Amsterdam.
From then until 1991, there were no reliable observations. In 1991, an observation was made, but in 2001 it was thought that the species was extinct. In 2006, the species was observed at Lake Matsaborimena, meaning that the species was not extinct.
2. Miller’s Langur
This langur was initially considered a subspecies of Hose’s langur, but was later recognized as its own species. It lives in groups of 5 to 12 individuals, with one male typically dominant. Males not living in a group are solitary.
This monkey is one of the most endangered. In 2004, it was thought to be extinct until a team of international scientists rediscovered the species in 2012. The species was found outside its usual habitat. It is highly vulnerable, and its future looks bleak. Scientists expect the species to become extinct in the future due to deforestation in the area and hunting. The animals are hunted for their meat and for bezoar stones. These stones are found in only a minority of the monkeys, but are used by people as lucky charms and to neutralize poisons.
1. Chaco Peccary (Tagua)
The Chaco peccary was first described in 1930 based on fossil remains, and it was thought to be extinct. However, in the 1970s, the species was seen alive again. The peccary lives in the Gran Chaco in Paraguay, Bolivia, and Argentina. Today, only about 3,000 of this species remain.
The animals live in groups of up to 20 individuals, are social with each other, and make various sounds to communicate. Their diet consists mainly of cacti. They roll the cacti on the ground with their snouts to remove the spines. Sometimes, the peccary pulls out the cactus spines with its mouth and then spits them out.
Today, the species lives in the wild only in South America. Additionally, the animal is kept in North American and European zoos. The peccary is threatened, mainly due to habitat reduction and fragmentation.