More Mekong ‘hidden animals’ found
Chulalongkorn Uni. Faculty of Science, Somsak Panha
Hot-pink, spiny dragon millipede Desmoxytes purpurosea
Encompassing Cambodia, southern China, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand and Vietnam, the Greater Mekong region’s rainforests and swamps are home to a myriad of creatures. So many, in fact, that in the last decade or so more than 1,000 species of plants and animals previously unknown to science have been discovered—an average rate of two per week.1
As well as the Laotian rodent Laonastes aenigmamus, the new species include a hot-pink, spiny dragon millipede Desmoxytes purpurosea and the world’s largest huntsman spider, Heteropoda maxima. The spider was found in caves in Laos, and has a leg span of 30 cm (1 ft)—“as big as a dinner plate”!2
While most of the new species were found in the largely unexplored jungles and swampy areas, some were found in “the most surprising places”, the World Wildlife Fund reported.3 “The Laotian rock rat, for example, thought to be extinct for 11 million years, was first encountered by scientists in a local food market, while the Siamese Peninsula pit viper was found slithering through the rafters of a restaurant in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand.”3
Photo Smithsonian Institute, Wikipedia.org
Laotian rodent Laonastes aenigmamus
We have earlier reported that the Laotian rock rat discovered in the market in 2005 was dead—“for sale on a table next to some vegetables”—but it certainly showed that Laonastes aenigmamus had not been extinct for 11 million years.4,5
Actually, the scientists who first encountered it thought they were seeing something new. They suggested that the rock rat marked the discovery of a whole new mammalian family and that it was a relative of guinea pigs.6 It was only after anatomical comparisons with lower Miocene fossils (dated at 11 million years old) that the rock rat in the Laos market was recognized as being not only a ‘living fossil’ but also a “particularly striking example of the ‘Lazarus effect’ in Recent [sic] mammals … ”.7
The ‘Lazarus effect’ refers to the unexpected ‘reappearance’ of an ‘extinct’ kind of creature after “a lengthy hiatus [gap] in the fossil record.”7 However, as our earlier article explained,5 in reality there is no ‘Lazarus effect’ spanning millions of years. Because many scientists either don’t know or deliberately forget (2 Peter 3:3–6) about the Genesis Flood around 4,500 years ago, they wrongly interpret the absence of particular organisms across multiple layers of sedimentary rock as being ‘a lengthy hiatus’ across millions of years. One clue should have been the ‘flat gaps’—locations where these layers are missing, but show no signs of millions of years of erosion.8
So it should not be surprising when creatures akin to specimens in the fossil record are found to be living today. Since the dead rock rat in the marketplace made world headlines, live Laotian rock rats have been found (as the above photo attests).9 And following DNA analysis, the rock rat retains its status as a ‘living fossil’, as researchers have unequivocally ruled out any notion that Laonastes is a close relative of guinea pigs.10,11
‘Lazarus effect’ vs reality
Although the scientists and the wilderness management authorities apparently continue to hold to the evolutionary view of Laonastes as a ‘living fossil’ and an example of the ‘Lazarus effect’, the reality of its discovery (along with the thousand other species) has left them optimistic that more ‘hidden animals’ will be found.
The world’s largest huntsman spider is Heteropoda maxima
“We thought discoveries of this scale were confined to the history books,” said Stuart Chapman, director of WWF’s Greater Mekong Programme.1 “Who knows what else is out there waiting to be discovered, but what is clear is that there is plenty more where this came from,” he said.3
Of course, they probably would not include dinosaurs in even their most optimistic ‘What will we find next?’ list. But if they do happen to find one (maybe rat size, as some dinosaurs were) still lurking somewhere in the Mekong jungles, it will be no surprise to creationists. Because its ancestors, along with the rock rat’s, did not die out millions of years ago, but walked off a large man-made vessel only around 4,500 years ago, and began to repopulate the earth (Genesis 8:17).
References and notes
- Over 1,000 new species discovered in Mekong River region, The Earth Times, www.earthtimes.org, 15 December 2008. Return to text.
- Spider as big as a plate among scores of new species found in Greater Mekong, The Telegraph (UK), www.telegraph.co.uk, 16 December 2008. Return to text.
- More than 1000 new species discovered in rivers, jungles … and restaurants of the Greater Mekong in past decade, World Wildlife Fund press release, www.worldwildlife.org, 17 December 2008. Return to text.
- Hurtley, S. and Szuromi, P., Rodent resurrection, Science 311(5766):1341, 2006. Return to text.
- Catchpoole, D., The ‘Lazarus effect’: rodent ‘resurrection’! Creation 29(2):52–55, 2007; creation.com/lazarus. Return to text.
- Pickrell, J., Kebab meat rodent gives birth to new family, New Scientist 186(2500):18, 2005. Return to text.
- Dawson, M., Marivaux, L., Li, C., Beard, K. and Metais, G., Laonastes and the “Lazarus effect” in Recent mammals, Science 311(5766):1456–1458, 2006. The term “Lazarus effect” derives from the Bible (John 11). Return to text.
- ‘Millions of years’ are missing: Jonathan Sarfati interviews biologist and geologist Ariel Roth, Creation 31(2): 46–49, 2009. Return to text.
- Laotian rock rat is rediscovered, BBC News Channel, news.bbc.co.uk, 15 December 2008. Return to text.
- Brahic, C., Genes reveal rock rat’s African roots, New Scientist, www.newscientist.com, 23 April 2007. Return to text.
- Huchon, D. and 7 others, Multiple molecular evidences for a living mammalian fossil, PNAS 104(18):7495–7499, 2007. Return to text.