So many humans live on Earth, it’s hard to imagine there are animals we haven’t seen for years, decades or even millions of years, but it keeps happening! Animals believed extinct that were found alive even have a name. They are called ‘Lazarus Animals’ after the biblical Lazarus who rose from the dead.
Here are 10 Lazarus animals that we thought had gone forever but made a comeback.
1. Australian night parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis)
Australian night parrots are small and short-tailed with yellowish-green, dark brown, black, and yellow foliage. From their name you’ll be able to guess they’re nocturnal! These cute little birds disappeared from the records in 1912. Scientists thought the cats and foxes introduced by settlers decimated the population, but in 1990 a dead one was found on the roadside in Queensland.
A naturalist called John Young dedicated 15 years to the search and was rewarded in 2013 when he photographed a live Australian night parrot one century after the last one was recorded.
However, some of Mr Young’s evidence was questioned and in March 2019 the Australian Wildlife Conservancy removed some of the new records.
Australian night parrots are classed as an endangered species and their population number is unknown.
2. Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae)
It isn’t a record of animals believed extinct but found alive without the infamous coelacanth!
Scientists thought coelacanth (pronounced see-la-canth) became extinct with the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, but in 1938 one was caught in the West Indian Ocean near South Africa. Another coelacanth was caught in 1998 on the coast of Indonesia. Not one but two living species of animal thought to have died out millions of years ago. What a comeback!
The two coelacanths each weighed close to 200 pounds and measured over six feet long, so it’s surprising humans hadn’t discovered them before. Their discovery caused a big stir in the scientific community not least because it’s a type of fish that tetrapods evolved from.
3. New Guinea Big-Eared Bat (Pharotis imogene)
The New Guinea big-eared bat doesn’t look much different from other bat species which is why it may have hidden from sight for so long.
The main differences are its ear size, nostril skin, and curved nose. You’d have to be a bat expert to tell the difference!
It was first observed just once in 1890 and was presumed extinct until 2012 when researchers studying the effects of logging on microbats accidentally caught one!
Due to its rarity, the female bat wasn’t identified as a New Guinea big-eared bat until a bat expert realized what it was two years later.
Logging is destroying habitat at a fast rate in Papua New Guinea and scientists are left wondering if this elusive bat will ever be spotted again. As a result, it’s on the critically endangered list.
4. Cuban Solenodon (Solenodon cubanus)
This little nocturnal shrew-like rodent is native to Cuba and lives in the Nipe-Sagua-Baracoa mountain range where it hunts insects. It’s one of the very few venomous mammals in existence!
They were declared extinct in 1970, but researchers found them again in 1974. Since the early 80s solenodons have been on the endangered species list.
There are two species of solenodon today. The once-thought extinct Cuban species and the Hispaniolan solenodon. Solenodon are descendants of a group of insectivores that lived at the same time as the dinosaurs 76 million years ago so they’ve been around a very time!
However, their habitat is now under threat and introduced invasive species such as the small Asian mongoose prey on them so their population is waning. It’s sad to think this animal believed extinct but found alive might soon be extinct for good.
5. Terror Skink (Phoboscincus bocourti)
Thought extinct for 100 years the Fernandina Island tortoise made a comeback in 2019.
This beautiful tortoise has extremely flared scutes (that’s the pieces making up its shell) and Galapogos-specific saddle-backing on the front carapace.
The lone female was found on the Northwestern flank of the Fernandina Island’s volcano and is 50 years old. She now lives in Galapagos National Park Tortoise Center.
Tracks and scat suggest there are at least another two Fernandina tortoises close by. This might put to bed the idea that the original Fernandina tortoise found in 1906 was taken there by travellers.
There’s an article in Communications Biology journal about her genome sequence and how it indicates she’s related to the 1906 tortoise despite her stunted growth and slightly odd appearance.
7. Takahe (Porphyrio hochstetteri)
Indigenous to New Zealand, this flightless swamphen was hunted by Maori for centuries before Europeans classified it. It’s a beautiful bird with iridescent dark blue feathers on its head and bright blue wings. Its back is teal green, its tail is white, and its beak is red! How this beauty remained hidden for 50 years is a mystery.
Takahes were discovered and classified by fossilized bones in 1847, then live takahes were captured in 1850 and 1898. After that, they disappeared due to colonists introducing predators such as cats and dogs. They were presumed extinct until 1948 when explorers led by Geoffrey Orbell found one in the Murchison Mountains.
They now live in New Zealand refuges and there are about 300 individuals. In 2018 30 takahes were released back into the wild in an effort to re-start the population.