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
Acerodon humilis Bat    


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      
Blarinomys breviceps Rodent      
Burramys parvus Possum (marsupial)      
Calliostoma bullatum marine snail Middle Pleistocene    
Canariella pontelirac Snail      
Catagonus wagneri Peccary (related to pigs)      
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  
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      
Phyllodactylus sp. nov. 'Rabida Island' Gecko c.5,000yBP 2012  
Porphyrio hochstetteri Rail (bird)   1850 or before Mantell, 1850
Pseudorca crassidens Whale      
Pseudoryzomys simplex Rodent      
Rhynchotalona latens Crustacean Quaternary ? van Damme & Nevalainen, 2019
Speothos venaticus Canid      
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]


Appendix 1: Potential future additions to this list

Sarcophilus laniarus (Owen, 1838), the mainland Tasmanian devil, might be conspecific with the extant Tasmanial devil, Sarcophilus harrisii (Boitard, 1841).


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.



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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.

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