March 9, 2006Reports of their extinction have been greatly exaggerated.
Scientists believed the Diatomydae family of rodents had been extinct for 11 million years. But the recently discovered rodent species from Southeast Asia is actually one of this family's modern-day kin, according to a report to be published in tomorrow's issue of the journal Science.
First found by conservationists last year, the squirrel-like critter, seen in the above illustration, was presumed to be from a family unknown to science. Dubbed Laonastes aenigmamus, the animal was considered a "living fossil" that had split from other rodents many millions of years ago.
Although scientists have now traced the creature's actual place in the animal kingdom, little else is known about the elusive rodent. It was originally found for sale at a Laos (see map) food market, and so far no living specimens have been recovered.
According to the scientists, Laotians prefer to savor Laonastes roasted whole and served on a skewer.
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