Posted in THE DODO on June 3, 2014
These rare animals were lost to extinction … until they were found, again. Here are seven tenacious critters that held on for dear life in some of the most remote crannies of the world, so invisible we thought they were gone for good:
1. After 120 years, the New Guinea big-eared bat rises again
About two years ago, scientists working in the forests of Papa New Guinea spotted a small, strange bat, which didn’t match any current records of “microbats” that lived in the area. In May, a bat expert confirmed that the animal was, in fact, a type of bitty bat last seen in 1890. Although the bat is quite rare, there’s a silver lining: the confirmation means the mammal is no longer “possibly extinct,” as listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
2. The Cuban solenodon is still sniffing around after a long absence
The Cuban solenodon, a shrew-like mammal with venomous saliva, has been performing its Houdini act for centuries. It’s been spotted only 37 times since discovered in Cuba in 1861 — and in 1970, it was believed to be extinct. But zoologists successfully captured and released a solenodon named “Alejandrito” in 2003. “All we can hope is that there are more and that they could have babies,” Douglas Long, a biologist at the California Academy of Sciences, told the AP.
3. Missing for 65 million years, the coelacanth lives on under the sea
The first contact humans had with coelacanths were fossils — some of which were 65 million years old (that’s back around the time when dinosaurs went extinct). But even 200-pound, 6-foot-long fishes have plenty of space to hide in the ocean. It wasn’t until 1938 when a South African museum curator caught a coelacanth, which looked remarkably unchanged given its Cretaceous ancestry.
4. The Clarion nightsnake hid on a remote island for 80 years
The Clarion nightsnake is so rare, biologists had erased it from the scientific record — until the snake was rediscovered earlier this year. The serpent wasn’t so easy to find, either. Biologists traveled to a remote island off the coast of Mexico — along with a military escort — to search for the nightsnake.
5. The Lord Howe stick insects survived under a single bush
The Lord Howe stick insects grow so large, they were once known as “tree lobsters.” But a giant size couldn’t save the tropical bugs from hungry rats, which humans introduced to the insect’s home island in the early 1900s. Thought extinct for almost 50 years, a handful of hardy survivors remained living under a single bush, clinging to life on a 225-foot-tall rocky outcropping that juts out of the sea.
6. It took half a century to find the ivory-billed woodpecker
Billed as the “holy grail” (or, if you prefer, the Elvis) of bird-watching, this rare woodpecker had eluded birders in the southern U.S. for about 50 years. One of the largest woodpeckers in the world, a kayaker spotted the ivory-bill in 2004. “Through the 20th century it’s been every birder’s fantasy to catch a glimpse of this bird, however remote the possibility,” John Fitzpatrick, an ornithologist at Cornell University, told National Geographic.
7. 80 years later, biologists get a glimpse of one of the tiniest primates around
The teeny, 2-ounce pygmy tarsier (which looks like a cross between a Furby and a friendly gremlin) hadn’t been seen since the 1920s. But in 2008, the little primate was rediscovered in Indonesia, thanks to the work of scientists at Texas A&M University. As Sharon Gusky-Doyen, a Texas A&M professor, told National Geographic: “There have been dozens of expeditions looking for them — all unsuccessful. I needed to go and try to see for myself if they were really there or if they were really extinct.”