“Living Fossil” Rediscovered

Feared to be extinct in the Caribbean—the only region of the globe it once called home—the solenodon was recently caught on film and eventually captured by conservationists. Researchers from the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Ornithological Society of Hispaniola took measurements and DNA from the creature before releasing him back into his habitat, BBC News reported early this year.

Dubbed by researcher Dr. Sam Turvey of the Zoological Society of London as "one of the most evolutionarily distinct mammals in the world," the solenodon is the last living venomous mammal, possessing specialized teeth to inject poison into prey.

Scientists believe the species diverged from modern mammals around 76 million years ago, and therefore consider it a "living fossil" and window to the past. Little else is known about the solenodon’s genetics, ecology, behavior or population, making conservation efforts that much harder.

Nevertheless, research institutions and wildlife groups working in the region are collaborating to preserve the species and its habitat, which are threatened by deforestation, hunting and non-native species. Researchers stress that this effort will also benefit other local endangered species.