Believe it or not, but species scientists thought were gone but are alive and well have a name: Lazarus species. These are the ones that seemingly come back to life, even though they might not have gone in the first place. Apparently, nature has a pretty good way of hiding in plain sight.
Lord Howe Island stick insect
Although it’s hard to miss the Lord Howe Island stick insect as it’s the size of someone’s hand, it seems that was just the case. A shipwreck plowed into the remote island in the 1920s, and rats from the ship were thought to have wiped the insect, commonly called the tree lobster, out for good. That was until 1960 when Lord Howe Island stick insect remains were found. However, it took until 2001 to discover 24 live insects, with researchers waiting until the rats are gone from the island to release them back to their home.
In 1870, a European naturalist caught a strange fish in North Carolina and named it the robust redhorse. Sadly, the specimen was later destroyed – and it turned out to be the last of its kind, or was it? It took 122 years, but strange fish suddenly started appearing in the Carolinas and Georgia. It was only when experts had a few years to study the fish that they realized the robust redhorse was back from the grave.
The coelacanth is one of the most famous Lazarus species of all time, mainly because scientists believed they went extinct a whopping 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs left the Earth. They are four-lobed fish that is thought to be one of the first examples of four-limbed creatures. Amazingly, they weren’t discovered until 1938, meaning there was a 66 million year gap between the newest fossil and finding they are alive. Several live specimens and species have been uncovered ever since.
Peruvian yellow-tailed woolly monkey
Amazingly, the illegal pet trade saved the Peruvian yellow-tailed woolly monkey from the brink. Experts believed the animal was extinct in 1926 as there were no sightings, especially as the monkeys only live in an isolated area of the Andes mountains in Peru. However, in 1974, one was discovered living as a pet in Brazil. Only then did researchers find more Peruvian yellow-tailed woolly monkeys in the wild, estimating there are less than 1,000 left.
This flightless bird is native to New Zealand and was first discovered by Europeans in 1847. However, they only found four birds, leading them to think the takahē would be gone in a few years. That was until 50 years later when an amateur naturalist was convinced the birds lived out there somewhere in the wild. Thankfully, Geoffrey’s campaign was worthwhile, as he found the bird on the South Island in 1948 and proved the takahē is still alive and thriving.
Amazingly, it seems that species scientists once thought were gone might have just been hiding this entire time. This is great news for conservation and, of course, the missing species.