Mar 9, 2006
Mammalian paleobiologists must be a cynical lot. How else to explain their presumably ironic use of the term Lazarus Effect in piecing together the very evidence for evolution that must by its nature preclude much of what is discussed in the same context as Lazarus? Moreover, this particular piece of evidence is one that plugs a gap in the fossil record and helps bring continuity to the theory of evolution, something that is often considered a fatal flaw by those who’d dispossess it. You could say they’ve brought it back to life…
Anyway, a new type of rodent discovered last year in Laos is a survivor of a group believed to
have been extinct for 11 million years, according to a new study published today in Science. Mary Dawson and colleagues compared skeletal remains of the squirrel-like animal with those of a little understood extinct group of Southeast Asian rodents and confirmed that it is actually a living member of this long-gone family. When the new species was discovered in early 2005, it drew wide acclaim because it was thought to be a member of an entirely new family of living mammals. Instead, according to the researchers, the rodent represents a striking example of the “Lazarus effect” in which an organism suddenly reappears after a long gap in its fossil record. That such a phenomenon has only rarely been documented among mammals and other vertebrates shows that Southeast Asia’s prehistoric “zoo” can offer invaluable insights regarding past and present
biodiversity, the researchers write.