Back from the dead: 9 species rediscovered in 2022

They’re really good at hiding.

Photo by Yurgen Vega/SELVA/ProCAT

Lucas Bustamante © Galapagos Conservancy

When no one spots a plant or animal for a long time, chances increase that its species has gone extinct.

But sometimes, species lost to science unexpectedly reappear.
Video by Jason Gregg/American Bird Conservancy

This year, many critically endangered flora and fauna teetering on the brink of extinction were rediscovered in the wild.

Photo by Riley Fortier

Here are 9 species that came back from the dead in 2022:

9. Black-naped pheasant pigeon

First documented in 1882, this chicken-sized bird was caught on camera for the first time ever this year.

Video by Jason Gregg/American Bird Conservancy

Doka Nason/American Bird Conservancy

However, the bird was familiar to Indigenous hunters in Papua New Guinea.

It was thanks to the help of locals that scientists could track the bird down and record its whereabouts.

8. Hill’s horseshoe bat

This funny-nosed, big-eared bat was lost to science after its last recorded sighting in 1981.

Jon Flanders

But it was rediscovered during an 8-year bat survey at Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda.

Scientists also recorded several other bat species in the park that hadn’t been found there before.

7. Gasteranthus extinctus

Last seen in 1985, this rare, tropical plant was named to predict what scientists thought would be its imminent fate — extinction.

R. Fortier/PhytoKeys

Photo by Riley Fortier

However, its presence in western Ecuador was recently recorded at five different sites, and reported in a study this year.

Despite the discovery, G. extinctus still remains endangered.

6. Shelta cave crayfish

Found only in the impenetrable darkness of northern Alabama’s Shelta cave, scientists last saw this crayfish in the late 1980s.

Dr. Matthew L. Niemiller

Dr. Matthew L. Niemiller

Its numbers dwindled following groundwater contamination and ecosystem disruption in the 60s and 70s.

Though scientists recorded the crayfish’s first sighting in over 30 years this year, it still remains endangered.

5. Lord Howe Island wood-feeding cockroach

These prickly-legged insects were nearly driven to extinction by rats that arrived on Lord Howe Island in 1918.

Justin Gilligan/NSW DPE

Justin Gilligan/NSW DPE

But scientists from New South Wales, Australia, recorded sightings of the bug for the first time since the 1930s.

It plays a key role in the island’s ecosystem, breaking down wood and being prey for other species.

4. Lateleaf oak

The last of this rare oak species was thought to have died off in 2011, but a new specimen — one battered by wildfire and disease — was discovered this year.

United States Botanic Garden

United States Botanic Garden

Researchers found the tree in Big Bend National Park in Texas, barely clinging to life.

Several organizations are now trying to preserve and propagate it, sowing hope that the species could continue existing into the future.

3. Santa Marta sabrewing

This iridescent hummingbird was spotted in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range by an experienced birdwatcher.

Photo by Yurgen Vega/SELVA/ProCAT

It’s the first time anyone had formally recorded a sighting of the bird since 2011.

Before that, the critically endangered Santa Marta sabrewing hadn’t been seen since 1946.

2. Fernandina Island giant tortoise

A tortoise nicknamed Fernanda took a DNA test, which revealed that she was the last living member of her species.

Lucas Bustamante © Galapagos Conservancy

Lucas Bustamante © Galapagos Conservancy

Fernanda is a Fernandina Island giant tortoise, or Chelonoidis phantasticus.

This species was last documented as a single specimen in 1906, which looked quite different from Fernanda, given that it was a male tortoise.

1. Harlequin frogs

As many as 32 different species of striking harlequin frogs, once thought to be extinct, were recently rediscovered in Ecuador.

Morley Read

Researchers detailed the full scope of their abundance in a 2022 report.

However, they caution that rediscovery does not necessarily mean recovery, as many species are still endangered.

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