"Living Fossil" Discovered in Laos

A previously unknown rodent has been discovered in a Laotian hunter's market by Robert Timmins of the Wildlife Conservation Society. Locals call the animal a "rock rat," but Western scientists have dubbed it Laonastes aenigmamus, meaning stone-dwelling enigmatic mouse. Researchers originally thought the animal was a new type of mammal, but they now consider it to be, "a fossil come to life." The Carnegie Museum of Natural History's Mary Dawson, a paleontologist, recognized the rodent as belonging to the Diatomyidae, a family that was thought to have been extinct for at least 11 million years. The animal is also important because it "represents tantalizing support for the theory that many mammals evolved in Asia and later colonized other continents, as its closest living relative is the gundis-a guinea pig-like rodent of northern Africa," according to the March 2006 Scientific American.

Share This!