Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Some examples of species

A Lazarus species, or taxon, is one which is thought to be extinct, only to reappear. The coelecanth is possibly the most famous example, but this list looks at some of the more recent rediscoveries, to highlight that work is still going on and exciting discoveries are being made all the time. The list includes, mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. It is far from being a definitive list, more a sample of what is out there. The species are listed in no particular order.

Bavarian Pine Vole
Microtus bavaricus

Thought extinct: 1962
Rediscovered: 2000/2001
Current status: Critically Endangered
The rediscovery of this small rodent, indigenous to the Alpine regions of Bavaria, Austria and Italy, is interesting as it shows how long it can sometimes take for a creature previously considered extinct to be recognized as extant. The mammal was last recorded in 1962, in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, which at that time was the vole’s only known location. It was feared extinct in the 1980s, when the last of the meadows which it inhabited were paved over and built on. However, a population of the animals was discovered in the Austrian Tyrol in 1976/77, but these were not confirmed as being
Bavarian Pine Voles until 2000. Coincidentally, the following year, Frederike Spitzenberger, a Viennese research scientist, discovered a live specimen in a trap, and further DNA tests proved that this creature was, indeed, a Bavarian pine vole. Its current population is sadly decreasing, and less than 50 individuals have been collected. It is considered locally extinct in Germany, and found only in one location in the Rofan Mountains, Northern Tyrol, Austria.
Mount Diablo Buckwheat
Eriogonum truncatum
Thought extinct: 1936
Rediscovered: 2005
Current status: Critically Threatened
This inconspicuous, little pink flower is probably not the most exciting of species, but it became a “holy grail” for botanists in the East Bay area. The flower is one of only three species of plant that are endemic to Mount Diablo in Northern California, and was last sighted in 1936, and presumed extinct due to its habitat being overrun with introduced grasses. Survey trips were conducted on the mountain, but were unsuccessful in finding the plant until 2005, when graduate student Michael Park took a different route from his usual survey and hiked out to a more remote area. There, he stumbled upon about 20 of the plants. Today, the plant is still considered critically threatened, though seeds collected from the 2005 samples have grown successfully at UC Botanical Gardens at Berkeley.
Lord Howe Stick Insect
Dryococelus australis
Thought extinct: 1930
Rediscovered: 2001
Current status: Critically Endangered
This large stick insect was dubbed “the rarest insect in the word” on its rediscovery, as only 30 individuals were found. They were rediscovered on one small uninhabited islet called Ball’s Pyramid, in the Lord Howe island group. These large, wingless insects were once very common on the islands, but the population dwindled after rats landed when a supply ship, the SS Makambo, ran aground there and they became the rodents’ main source of food. Hopes that the animals had survived were rekindled when newly dead specimens were found by climbers in the 1960s. Living specimens were found in February 2001. Today there are about 450 individuals, with some being returned to their original habitat of Lord Howe Island. There are also plans to eradicate the rat population to give the insects a chance to flourish.
Black Kokanee
Oncorhynchus nerka kawamurae
Thought extinct: 1940
Rediscovered: 2010
Current status: Insufficient Information
This Japanese fish, a subspecies of salmon, was thought to have become extinct in 1940, when its only native habitat, Lake Tazawa, was fitted with a hydro electric project, making its water more acidic. Although eggs were transported to Lake Saiko, about 300 miles away, this was thought to have been unsuccessful until 2010, when scientist Tetsuji Nakabo and a team of researchers at Kyoto University found living specimens in Lake Saiko.
Painted Frog
Atelopus ebenoides
Thought extinct: 1995
Rediscovered: 2006
Current status: Critically Endangered
Native only to Colombia, this amphibian, before its rediscovery, was last sighted in 1995, and was thought to have been a victim of the fungal disease chytridiomycosis which has contributed to a global decline in amphibian populations. Attempts to locate the animal proved fruitless until May 2006, when it was spotted by Professor Carlos Rocha and a team of researchers from Pedagogical and Technological University of Colombia. The rediscovery gave hope to scientists that some amphibians were developing resistance to the disease.

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