A Graphic Guide to Species That Defied Expectations By Being Alive - Atlas Obscura
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A Graphic Guide to Species That Defied Expectations By Being Alive

These “Lazarus species” weren’t extinct—they were just hiding.

In 1895, paleontologists digging at Wombeyan Caves in Australia came across an unusual set of rodent bones. Because the fossils didn’t resemble anything familiar, the experts named the poor creature the Mountain Pygmy Possum, declared it long extinct, and kept digging.

But 70 years later, a live Mountain Pygmy Possum showed up outside a ski lodge in Victoria—tiny, adorable, and very much alive. The world of full of such “Lazarus species:” animals and plants that disappeared on us, only to resurface years, centuries, or entire epochs after their supposed extinctions. 

Graphics by Michelle Enemark. 

Update, 10/17: The original version of this article located Wombeyean Caves in New Zealand—they’re actually in Australia. Thanks to Robert MacLeod for the correction, and we regret the error.