The Lazarus Taxon: Something “Raised From The Dead”


There is a concept in biology called the Lazarus taxon.  The word taxon (plural taxa) means a taxonomic category, as a species or genus.  The term is used to describe animals or plants that vanish from the fossil record for long periods of time, only to “reappear” at a different point in history.  Organisms long thought to be extinct suddenly appear on the scene.  Why does this happen?  The biologists tell us it can be for many reasons:  the fossil record is sporadic, and not all species are preserved in it.  Some are; and some are not.  The reason why the word Lazarus is used is because it refers to the New Testament story of Lazarus being “raised from the dead.”

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