Remember the story of Lazarus, who was raised from the dead? Well, biologists have created a Lazarus category for creatures that were thought to be extinct, but aren’t.
South Africa seems to be one such place of resurrection, and just this week, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) revealed the discovery of a new “Lazarus plant,” in Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape Province.
The Lazarus Plant has the daunting name of Aspalathus recurvispina but is a close relative of the renowned local herb tea plant, Aspalathus linearis, known locally as ”Rooibos,” or ”Red Bush.” A. recurvispina was last recorded in 1960 in Port Elizabeth, the city in Nelson Mandela Bay. However, as no further plants were found, it was listed as extinct. Until:
Domitilla Raimondo, national coordinator of the Custodians of Rare and Endangered Wildflowers (CREW) stopped off at an open patch of land in Humewood. There she spotted a sprawling, low, green bushy shrub and took samples of what she thought to be another extinct plant. However, tests showed it was A recurvispina and an extinct plant was no longer extinct.
As Simply Green tells us.
CREW are deeply concerned as roadworks threaten the few plants left. One idea is to cultivate them in a safe environment, but until more plants are found out there, the newly-resurrected plant will be ”critically endangered,” while its better known cousin continues to nourish thirsty South Africans and many others worldwide.
The country’s other resurrected species, the Coelecanth, was long believed by scientists to have been extinct since the Cretaceous period, which ended 65 million years ago. A specimen was discovered off East London in 1938 and in 1952, one was reported in the Comores group of islands and a South African Air Force DC-3 Dakota was sent to get it. Professor James Leonard Brierley Smith officially named the fish after the curator of the town’s museum, Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer and a nearby river, the Chalumna as Latimeria chalumnae.
The 'Living Fossil" or Coelacanth
Coelecanths live in very deep waters and are found off the South African coast, the Comores Islands, off Madagascar and along the East African coast. A second species was found in 1998 in Indonesia.