8 Extinct Animals That Really Weren't

Mickey Samuni-Blank, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Most of the time, when a species has been declared extinct, it's truly gone. Occasionally, however, a species that has been declared kaput, sometimes for hundreds of years, can appear in the most unexpected places. These creatures are known as “Lazarus species” since they seem to have made a miraculous return from the dead, much like the biblical story of Jesus resurrecting Lazarus. Here are some of the species we’ve declared gone a little too soon.

1. Hula Painted Frog (Latonia nigriventer)

Believed to have died out 60 years ago, this frog with the polka-dotted belly was the first amphibian to be declared extinct—so you can imagine a park ranger’s surprise when he glimpsed one hopping across the road in 2011. The species dwindled in the 1950s when the Hula marshlands in Israel were drained to prevent malaria. An additional 10 frogs have been spotted since the initial discovery four years ago, leading researchers to hope that the little guys are on the rebound.

2. Myanmar Jerdon’s babbler (Chrysomma altirostre)

One of the most recent additions to Lazarus society, a bird called Jerdon’s babbler, was last seen in Myanmar in 1941, leading researchers to conclude that degrading grasslands had sent the little brown bird the way of the dodo. But in 2014, a team from the Wildlife Conservation Society was surveying the grasslands near the two of Myitkyo when they happened to hear the call of a bird that sounded like the babbler’s song. Upon closer inspection, it wasn’t just a couple of Jerdon’s babblers—it was a whole slew of them. The babbler’s grassland habitat is still threatened, so conservationists are now working on systems to help the birds thrive and repopulate.

3. Yellow-Tailed Woolly Monkey (Oreonax flavicauda)

Wikimedia Commons // Platyrrhinus

For nearly 50 years, scientists thought the yellow-tailed woolly monkey had been eradicated from the planet. Then, in 1974, one of the little primates was found in Brazil—not in the wild, but being kept as a pet. It’s estimated that less than 250 of the monkeys remain, making it one of the most endangered primates in the world [PDF].

4. Gilbert’s Potoroo (Potorous gilbertii)

Also known as the rat kangaroo, this teeny-tiny marsupial flew under the radar for more than a century, disappearing in the 1800s. In 1994, a Ph.D. student studying quokkas on the South Coast of Western Australia managed to accidentally trap a couple potoroos. The nocturnal mammals somewhat resemble quokkas, though much smaller—so at first blush, the student thought she had captured baby quokkas. These days, it’s estimated that there are only 30 to 40 potoroos left in the wild, with an additional 90 to 100 in two conservation colonies. This tiny population makes it the world’s rarest marsupial.

5. Arakan Forest Turtle (Heosemys depressa)

Wikimedia Commons // Eoghanacht

The Arakan forest turtle was last seen by a British explorer in 1908—and even then, it was just a single specimen. The semiterrestrial turtle then dropped out of sight until 1994, when several of them were found in a Chinese food market. Though they’re still considered one of the world’s rarest turtle species, five of them were observed in the wild for the first time in 2009.

6. Forest Owlet (Athene blewitti)

As if it wasn’t bad enough that we thought the forest owlet was extinct for decades, we also managed to lose one of our only stuffed specimens of the bird—or so we thought. It turned out that ornithologist Richard Meinertzhagen had stolen the forest owlet from the British Museum of Natural History sometime after 1925. He later submitted that exact owl to another museum, claiming he found it in India in 1914. When researchers could find no evidence of the owlet in India, they concluded that it must be extinct. Meinertzhagen was later exposed as a fraud, but it took until 1997 to find the forest owlet in the wild again.

7. Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis)

Often called “the world’s most mysterious bird,” the night parrot stayed in the shadows for more than 100 years. Though there were a couple of sightings of the Australian bird reported in 1979 and 2005, no one was able to capture it on film for proof. A couple of dead parrots also turned up occasionally—insert your own Monty Python joke here—but the first hard evidence we had of their continued existence didn’t occur until 2013, when Queensland ornithologist John Young captured video of two of the elusive birds.

8. Lord Howe Island Stick Insect (Dryococelus australis)

Wikimedia Commons // Granitethighs

Most of us probably wouldn’t be too thrilled to stumble upon this 5-inch stick insect, but most of us aren’t entomologists. And don’t worry—you’re not going to find one of these so-called “tree lobsters” in your house. They’re found in the wild only on Ball’s Pyramid near Lord Howe Island between Australia and New Zealand—and even then, only under a specific bush. It was assumed that a population of black rats had eaten all of the giant insects sometime after 1920, but scientists found a small colony of them living around a single plant in 2001.

Authorities Want This Roadside Bear Statue in Wales Removed Before It Causes More Accidents

There are no real bears in the British Isles for residents to worry about, but a statue of one in the small Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells has become a cause of concern. As The Telegraph reports, the statue is so convincing that it's scaring drivers, causing at least one motorist to crash her car. Now road safety officials are demanding it be removed.

The 10-foot wooden statue has been a fixture on the roadside for at least 15 years. It made headlines in May of 2018 when a woman driving her car saw the landmark and took it to be the real thing. She was so startled that she veered off the road and into a street sign.

After the incident, she complained about the bear to highways officials who agreed that it poses a safety threat and should be removed. But the small town isn't giving in to the Welsh government's demands so quickly.

Wooden bear statue.

The bear statue was originally erected on the site of a now-defunct wool mill. Even though the mill has since closed, locals still see the statue as an important landmark. Llanwrtyd Wells councilor Peter James called it an "iconic gateway of the town," according to The Telegraph.

Another town resident, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Telegraph that the woman who crashed her car had been a tourist from Canada where bears are common. Bear were hunted to extinction in Britain about 1000 years ago, so local drivers have no reason to look out for the real animals on the side of the road.

The statue remains in its old spot, but Welsh government officials plan to remove it themselves if the town doesn't cooperate. For now, temporary traffic lights have been set up around the site of the accident to prevent any similar incidents.

[h/t The Telegraph]

10 Scientific Benefits of Being a Dog Owner

The bickering between cat people and dog people is ongoing and vicious, but in the end, we're all better off for loving a pet. But if anyone tries to poo-poo your pooch, know that there are some scientific reasons that they're man's best friend.


Dog snuggling on a bed with its person.

If cleaning commercials are to be believed, humanity is in the midst of a war against germs—and we shouldn't stop until every single one is dead. In reality, the amount of disinfecting we do is making us sicker; since our bodies are exposed to a less diverse mix of germs, our entire microbiome is messed up. Fortunately, dogs are covered in germs! Having a dog in the house means more diverse bacteria enters the home and gets inside the occupants (one study found "dog-related biodiversity" is especially high on pillowcases). In turn, people with dogs seem to get ill less frequently and less severely than people—especially children—with cats or no pets.


Child and mother playing with a dog on a bed.

While dog dander can be a trigger for people with allergies, growing up in a house with a dog makes children less likely to develop allergies over the course of their lives. And the benefits can start during gestation; a 2017 study published in the journal Microbiome found that a bacterial exchange happened between women who lived with pets (largely dogs) during pregnancy and their children, regardless of type of birth or whether the child was breastfed, and even if the pet was not in the home after the birth of the child. Those children tested had two bacteria, Ruminococcus and Oscillospira, that reduce the risk of common allergies, asthma, and obesity, and they were less likely to develop eczema.


Woman doing yoga with her dog.

Everything about owning a dog seems to lend itself to better heart health. Just the act of petting a dog lowers heart rate and blood pressure. A 2017 Chinese study found a link between dog ownership and reduced risk of coronary artery disease, while other studies show pet owners have slightly lower cholesterol and are more likely to survive a heart attack.


Person running in field with a dog.

While other pets have positive effects on your health as well, dogs have the added benefit of needing to be walked and played with numerous times a day. This means that many dog owners are getting 30 minutes of exercise a day, lowering their risk of cardiovascular disease.


Woman cuddling her dog.

Dog owners are less likely to suffer from depression than non-pet owners. Even for those people who are clinically depressed, having a pet to take care of can help them out of a depressive episode. Since taking care of a dog requires a routine and forces you to stay at least a little active, dog owners are more likely to interact with others and have an increased sense of well-being while tending to their pet. The interaction with and love received from a dog can also help people stay positive. Even the mere act of looking at your pet increases the amount of oxytocin, the "feel good" chemical, in the brain.


Large bulldog licking a laughing man.

Not only does dog ownership indirectly tell others that you're trustworthy, your trusty companion can help facilitate friendships and social networks. A 2015 study published in PLOS One found that dogs can be both the catalyst for sparking new relationships and also the means for keeping social networks thriving. One study even showed that those with dogs also had closer and more supportive relationships with the people in their lives.


Man high-fiving his dog.

Your dog could save your life one day: It seems that our canine friends have the ability to smell cancer in the human body. Stories abound of owners whose dogs kept sniffing or licking a mole or lump on their body so they got it checked out, discovering it was cancerous. The anecdotal evidence has been backed up by scientific studies, and some dogs are now trained to detect cancer.


Woman working on a computer while petting a dog.

The benefits of bringing a dog to work are so increasingly obvious that more companies are catching on. Studies show that people who interact with a pet while working have lower stress levels throughout the day, while people who do not bring a pet see their stress levels increase over time. Dogs in the office also lead to people taking more breaks, to play with or walk the dog, which makes them more energized when they return to work. This, in turn, has been shown to lead to much greater productivity and job satisfaction.


Man running in surf with dog.

The kind of dog you have says a lot about your personality. A study in England found a very clear correlation between people's personalities and what type of dogs they owned; for example, people who owned toy dogs tended to be more intelligent, while owners of utility dogs like Dalmatians and bulldogs were the most conscientious. Other studies have found that dog owners in general are more outgoing and friendly than cat owners.


A young boy having fun with his dog.

Though one 2003 study found that there was no link between pet ownership and empathy in a group of children, a 2017 study of 1000 7- to 12-year-olds found that pet attachment of any kind encouraged compassion and positive attitudes toward animals, which promoted better well-being for both the child and the pet. Children with dogs scored the highest for pet attachment, and the study notes that "dogs may help children to regulate their emotions because they can trigger and respond to a child's attachment related behavior." And, of course, only one pet will happily play fetch with a toddler.

A version of this story originally ran in 2015.


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