3 Extinct Animals that Came Back from the Dead – Sustainability Story of the Week
This week I’m telling you about 3, supposedly extinct animal species that have fooled scientists and biologists into thinking they had become extinct but have miraculously come back from the dead!
There are a number of extinct animals that have simply popped back into existence. Masters at this elaborate hide-and-seek game, these highly endangered species are reduced to such small numbers, or live in such secluded areas, that they fall off scientists’ radars only to be rediscovered, often by chance, decades, centuries and sometimes even millions of years later. They are called ‘Lazarus’ species in reference to the biblical story of Jesus who raised Lazarus from the dead.
Determining if a species is extinct, or merely just absent from an area, is tricky. Researches must go through a lengthy process of careful monitoring of the species, gathering and analysing large volumes of data and information such as confirmed and unconfirmed sightings. Researchers can never be 100% certain that a species is in fact extinct but make the best estimate possible based on a strict scientific process. Luckily, every now and then, they’re in for a pleasant surprise when a species they thought extinct turns up unannounced!
Here are 3 examples of species we are lucky to still count amongst us:
Undoubtedly the all-time hide-and-seek champion, the coelacanth, a deep water fish, was once only known from its fossils and thought to have become extinct about 70 million years ago… until a recently dead specimen was discovered by South African fishermen in 1938. The enormous fish has another peculiarity: it appears to have changed very little in tens of millions of years, since before the time of dinosaurs. The coelacanth gives us a unique glimpse of a time we thought gone forever.
2. North-Eastern Indian Tree frog
The tree frog lives in tree holes sometimes up to 6 meters above the jungle floor in North-Eastern India, which is perhaps why they have eluded scientists for almost 140 years. Last seen in 1870, it was rediscovered in 2007 by renowned Indian biologist Sathyabhama Das Biju, nicknamed the Frog Man for having discovered over a quarter of India’s frog species. It was the frogs’ singing that caught Mr Biju attention whilst on a hunt. The frog however still faces significant threat from deforestation and pollution with some forests where the frogs have been found having already been burned down for development.
3. Omura’s whale
The Omura’s whale was believed to have been discovered whilst already an extinct animal. It was named in 2003 from a dead specimen. However, a population of Omura’s whales was found off the coast of Madagascar in 2013. The small whale is distinctively pale on the right side and dark on the left side. A lot about it still remains an enigma today but scientists are starting to better understand the secretive species. The Omura’s whale appears to stay in tropical and sub-tropical waters, which is unusual for whales. Most species of whales often migrate over long distances and spend at least some part of the year in cooler waters where food is more abundant. Tropical waters offer slim pickings for the whales, how the Omura’s whale manages to survive remains a mystery.
These Lazarus species are like a beam of light and a symbol of hope in the sometimes-dark world of species conservation. However, more often than not species declared extinct will never be seen again and are in fact lost forever. Conservation does work and is the only hope for the many species now on the brink of extinction. Travelling responsibly and staying informed will ensure that your holidays do not contribute to the rapidly increasing rate of species extinction and instead help species thrive again.