It has the face of a rat and the tail of a skinny squirrel — and scientists say this creature discovered living in central Laos is pretty special: It's a species believed to have been extinct for 11 million years.
The long-whiskered rodent made international headlines last spring when biologists declared they'd discovered a brand new species, nicknamed the Laotian rock rat.
It turns out the little guy isn't new after all, but a rare kind of survivor: a member of a family until now known only from fossils.
Nor is it a rat. This species, called Diatomyidae, looks more like small squirrels or tree shrews, said paleontologist Mary Dawson of Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum of Natural History.
Dawson, with colleagues in France and China, report the creature's new identity in Friday's edition of the journal Science.
The resemblance is "absolutely striking," Dawson said. As soon as her team spotted reports about the rodent's discovery, "we thought, 'My goodness, this is not a new family. We've known it from the fossil record.'"
They set out to prove that through meticulous comparisons between the bones of today's specimens and fossils found in China and elsewhere in Asia.
To reappear after 11 million years is more exciting than if the rodent really had been a new species, said George Schaller, a naturalist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, which unveiled the creature's existence last year. Indeed, such reappearances are so rare that paleontologists dub them "the Lazarus effect."
Read more here.
Whether or not this would be what they call the 'Lazarus Effect' or not would be debatavle. The term generally means for fossils. I guess it does apply here, but...anyways.