What is Lazarus Taxon?
A Lazarus Taxon is a paleontological term that describes a taxon that went missing from fossil records only to reappear at a later time period. In other words, it refers to species that have disappeared, (sometimes for millions of years), only to be seen again.
Also Read: Extinction
Who Coined the term “Lazarus Taxon?”
The term was coined by Karl W. Flessa and David Jablonski in 1983. The term “Lazarus” is a reference to the Biblical character, Lazarus, who was raised from the dead by Jesus.
Example of a Lazarus Taxon
One of the most famous examples of Lazarus taxa is the Coelacanth – these are a genus of ancient fish that was initially thought to have gone extinct 66 million years ago but only to have been rediscovered off the coast of South Africa. Other examples of Lazarus Taxon includes:
- Giant Palouse earthworm (Driloleirus americanus)
- Smoothtooth blacktip shark (Carcharhinus leiodon)
- Starry night toad (Atelopus arsyecue)
- Bavarian pine vole (Microtus bavaricus)
- New Holland mouse (Pseudomys novaehollandiae)
- Woolly flying squirrel (Eupetaurus cinereus)
Lazarus Taxon – Reasons and Speculations
There are many reasons why organisms just disappear from fossil records only to reappear again. Some of the most apparent reasons are:
- Fossil records are not well-studied – There are many fossil-bearing strata that haven’t been studied by paleontologists just yet.
- Recognizing a living Lazarus taxa requires the aid of other disciplines. Biologists and paleontologists have to be aware and work together to identify such a taxon.
- Fossil records have geographic limitations – for instance, a species may go extinct elsewhere, but a separate population may survive in another area. Additionally, the conditions may not always be right for fossils to form, thereby creating a “void” in the fossil records.
Read more: Endangered Species
Frequently Asked Questions on Lazarus Taxon
1.What is Lazarus Taxon?
A Lazarus Taxon is a paleontological term that describes a taxon which went missing from fossil records only to reappear at a later time period. In other words, it refers to a species that was thought to be extinct, until it rediscovered.
2.Who Coined the term “Lazarus Taxon?”
The term was coined by Karl W. Flessa and David Jablonski in 1983.
3.Provide an example of a Lazarus Taxon.
One of the most famous examples of a Lazarus taxa is the Coelacanth, a genus of ancient fish that was initially thought to have gone extinct 66 million years ago but only to have been rediscovered off the coast of South Africa, on 23 December, 1938.
4.What are the speculations put forth to explain the Lazarus Taxon?
Some of the speculations include:
- Incomplete and not well-studied fossil records.
- Geographic limitations and conditions for fossils to form must be right. Hence, it is comparatively harder for soft-bodied animals to fossilize.
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