Pauline Taxa: Fossil Taxa Later Discovered Alive

By Branden Holmes

In addition to the many millions of living species which have been described, a few very special taxa have been named upon the basis of fossil or subfossil material only to later be discovered still living. Although technically named Lazarus taxa, an allusion to the story of the Biblical Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead after four days (John 11:1-44), pronunciation of extinction in each of these cases turned out to be premature, unlike that of Lazarus. None of them were really resurrected from the dead like Lazarus, or the Pyrenean ibex (Capra pyrenaica pyrenaica), the only true Lazarus taxon to date (Folch et al., 2009)1.

Instead the reappearance of most taxa, both those discovered and rediscovered as living, should rather be likened to Paul in Acts (Acts 14:19-20), when he is stoned, putatively to death, but miraculously recovers, clearly never having actually being dead. And hence these taxa should be more appropriately referred to as Pauline taxa rather than Lazarus taxa, a name which I shall adopt throughout this website.

 

Table 1. An incomplete list of Pauline taxa.2

Scientific name Type of animal/plant Last record Rediscovered Source/s
         
Adeonella adae (bryozoan) Late Pleistocene 2000's? Rosso & Novosel, 2010
         
Alytes muletensis Toad Late Pleistocene 1979  
         
Aproteles bulma Bat      
         
Awalycaeus yanoshokoae Snail      
         
Bibimys labiosus Rodent   1980  
         
Blarinomys breviceps Rodent      
         
Burramys parvus Possum (marsupial) ? 1966  
         
Calliostoma bullatum marine snail Middle Pleistocene    
         
Canariella pontelirac Snail      
         
Catagonus wagneri Peccary (related to pigs) ? 1974  
         
Coenocorypha aucklandica perseverance Bird      
         
Crocidura religiosa     early 1900's Woodman et al., 2017
         
Cuscomys oblativa Rodent 1500's? 2009 or 2012  
         
Cyclocypris diebeli Crustacean      
         
Discula cameroni land snail ? 2020 or before Cameron et al., 2021
         
Discus macclintocki land snail Late Pleistocene 1955  
         
Eschrichtius robustus Gray whale, Grey whale ? 1930's Wikipedia
         
Hemicycla eurythyra Snail      
         
Lundomys molitor Rodent Late Pleistocene 1993 Voss & Carleton, 1993
         
Mastacomys fuscus mordicus Rodent      
         
Mesocapromys nanus3 Rodent   pre-1938 EDGE website
         
Muntiacus gigas Deer Holocene? 2016? Turvey et al., 2016
         
Natalus jamaicensis Bat      
         
Natalus primus Bat      
         
Nesopupa turtoni (land snail) subfossil 2003  
         
Paulamys naso Rodent ? 1991  
         
Phyllodactylus sp. nov. 'Rabida Island' Gecko c.5,000yBP 2012  
         
Porphyrio hochstetteri Rail (bird) ? 1850 or before Mantell, 1850
         
Potorous tridactylus trisulcatus Bettong (macropod) ? 2012 Frankham et al., 2012; Jackson & Groves, 2015
         
Pseudorca crassidens Whale   1861  
         
Pseudoryzomys simplex Rodent   1991  
         
Rhynchotalona latens Crustacean Quaternary ? van Damme & Nevalainen, 2019
         
Speothos venaticus Canid ? 1843   
         
Tonatia saurophila Bat      
         

Vertigo pseudosubstriata

Snail Late Pleistocene 1984 or prior Schilyenko, 1984; but see Meng et al., 2021
         
Ziphius cavirostris Whale ? 1872  

 

Table 2. Rediscovery of ghost lineages.

Scientific name Type of animal/plant Rediscovered Source/s
[carp gudgeon]    

https://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/act/the-mystery-of-a-team-of-canberra-ghostbusters-and-a-freaky-fish-20190321-p5163z.html

 

Table 3. Pauline taxa later shown to represent a different species. 

Scientific name Type of animal/plant Initial claim of rediscovery Rediscovery shown to represent another species
       
Elseya lavarackorum (turtle) Thomson et al., 1997 Joseph-Ouni et al., 2020

 

Appendix 1: Potential future additions to this list

  • The fossil species Sarcophilus laniarius (Owen, 1838) might be conspecific with the extant Tasmanial devil, Sarcophilus harrisii (Boitard, 1841).

 

Appendix 2: Species first recorded as fossils and later as living individuals prior to scientific description

  • Tellina cockburnensis (Kendrick & Brearley, 1984).

 

Appendix 3: Long extinct genera (or higher) rediscovered via description or transfer of living species

  • Alavesia leukoprosopa Amorim et al., 2020
  • Dromiciops gliroides Thomas, 1894 [family Microbiotheriidae thought extinct prior to rediscovery]
  • Eidothea zoexylocarya A.W.Douglas & B.Hyland (1995)

  • Eurhodia relicta Mooi, 1990

  • Gracilidris pombero Wild & Cuezzo, 2006
  • Laonastes aenigmamus Jenkins et al., 2005 [family Diatomyidae thought extinct prior to rediscovery]
  • Order: Tryblidiida (Lemche, 1957)
  • Submyotodon caliginosus
  • Wollemia nobilis (W.G.Jones, K.D.Hill & J.M.Allen, 1995)

 

Notes

1 Although the Southern gastric brooding frog (Rheobatrachus silus) has also been resurrected, albeit in a restricted sense (see Phillips, 2013).

2 I owe a debt to a blog post by vertebrate palaeontologist Darren Naish.

3 Sadly this species is now believed to be extinct. The last known individual was collected in 1937.

 

References

Amorim, Dalton De Souza, Riccardi, Paula Raile and Rafael, José Albertino. (2020). First Known Extant Species of Alavesia (Diptera: Atelestidae) in the Neotropical Region: Alavesia leukoprosopa, sp. nov., from the Southern Atlantic Forest, Brazil. American Museum Novitates 3962: 1-12. https://doi.org/10.1206/3962.1

Cameron, Robert A. D., Teixeira, Dinarte, Pokryszko, Beata, Silva, Isamberto and Groh, Klaus. (2021). An annotated checklist of the extant and Quaternary land molluscs of the Desertas Islands, Madeiran Archipelago. Journal of Conchology 44(1): 53-70.

van Damme, Kay and Nevalainen, Liisa. (2019). The most latent cladoceran in the Holarctic revealed—sinking Unapertura Sarmaja-Korjonen, Hakojärvi & Korhola, 2000 into the genus Rhynchotalona Norman, 1903 (Branchiopoda: Cladocera: Chydoridae). Zootaxa 4613(3): 463-476.

Douglas, A. W. and Hyland, B. P. M. (1995). Subfamily Eidotheoideae (Appendix). Flora of Australia Vol. 16: 472-473 (ABRS/CSIRO Publishing: Melbourne).

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Jones, W. G., Hill, K. D. and Allen, J. M. (1995). Wollemia nobilis, a new living Australian genus and species in the Araucariaceae. Telopea 6(2-3): 173-176.

Joseph-Ouni, M., McCord, W.P., Cann, J., Smales, I., Freeman, A., Sadlier, R., Couper, P., White, A. and Amey, A. (2020). The relics of Riversleigh: Re-examination of the fossil record of Elseya (Testudines: Chelidae) with description of a new extant species from the Gulf of Carpentaria drainages, Queensland, Australia. The Batagur Monographs 3: 7-69.

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Meng, Stefan, Vasyliev, P., Khoptynets, I., Tkach, V. and Maier, A. (2021). On the present habitats and ecology of Vertigo pseudosubstriata Ložek, 1954 (Mollusca, Gastropoda, Vertiginidea) in Central Asia and its distribution history in Central and Eastern Europe. Journal of Quaternary Science 36(6): 1090-1100.

Mooi, Rich. (1990). A new “living fossil” echinoid (Echinodermata) and the ecology and paleobiology of caribbean cassiduloids. Bulletin of Marine Science 46(3): 688-700.

Phillips, Nicky. (2013). Extinct frog hops back into the gene pool. The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 March (Saturday).

Rosso, Antonietta and Novosel, Maja. (2010). The genus Adeonella (Bryozoa, Ascophora) in the Mediterranean, with description of two new living species and rediscovery of a fossil one. Journal of Natural History 44(27-28): 1697-1727. [Abstract]

Schileyko, A. A. (1984). Nazemnye molljuski podotryda Pupillina fauny SSSR (Gastropoda, Pulmonata, Geophila). Fauna SSSR, Molljuski 3(3): 399. [in Russian].

Thomas, Oldfield. (1894). On Micoureus* griseus, Desm., with the Description of a new Genus and Species of Didelphyidae. The Annals and Magazine of Natural History; Zoology, Botany, and Geology (6) 14: 184-188.

Thomson, S. A., White, A. and Georges, A. (1997). Re-evaluation of Emydura lavarackorum: identification of a living fossil. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 42(1): 327-336.

Turvey, Samuel T. et al. (2016). Holocene range collapse of giant muntjacs and pseudo-endemism in the Annamite large mammal fauna. Journal of Biogeography. DOI: 10.1111/jbi.12763 [Abstract]

Voss, R. S. and Carleton, M. D. (1993). A new genus for Hesperomys molitor Winge and Holochilus magnus Hershkovitz (Mammalia, Muridae) with an analysis of its phylogenetic relationships. American Museum Novitates 3085: 1-39.

Wild, Alexander L. and Cuezzo, Fabiana. (2006). Rediscovery of a fossil dolichoderine ant lineage (Hymenoptera: Formicidae: Dolichoderinae) and a description of a new genus from South America. Zootaxa 1142: 57-68. https://doi.org/10.11646/zootaxa.1142.1.5

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