Thursday, June 15, 2006

Living Fossil Photographed

The first pictures showing a live specimen of a rodent species once thought to have been extinct for 11 million years have been taken by a retired Florida State University professor and a Thai wildlife biologist.

They took video and still photographs of the "living fossil," which looks like a small squirrel or tree shrew, in May during an expedition to central Laos near the Thai border.

Known as Diatomyidae, scientists have nicknamed it the Laotian rock rat. The creature is not really a rat but a member of a rodent family once known only from fossils.

The pictures show a docile, squirrel-sized animal with dark dense fur and a long tail but not as bushy as a squirrel's. It also shows that the creature waddles like a duck with its hind feet splayed out at an angle — ideal for climbing rocks.

"I hope these pictures will help in some way to prevent the loss of this marvelous animal," said David Redfield, a science education professor emeritus.

From here.

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