Lazarus Taxa

In paleontology, a Lazarus taxon (plural taxa) is a taxon that disappears from one or more periods of the fossil record, only to appear again later. The term refers to an account in the Gospel of John, in which Jesus miraculously raised Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus taxa are observational artifacts that appear to occur either because of (local) extinction, later resupplied, or as a sampling artifact. If the extinction is conclusively found to be total (global or worldwide) and the supplanting species is not a lookalike (an Elvis species), the observational artifact is overcome. The fossil record is inherently imperfect (only a very small fraction of organisms become fossilized) and contains gaps not necessarily caused by extinction, particularly when the number of individuals in a taxon becomes very low. If these gaps are filled by new fossil discoveries, a taxon will no longer be classified as a Lazarus taxon.

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