Photo in the News: 1st Photo of Rare Rodent (Uncooked)

Laotian rock rat (living fossil) first live photo
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June 14, 2006—A feast for the eyes only, this is the first known Laotian rock rat to be photographed not on a skewer.

It was a little over a year ago that a Wildlife Conservation Society scientist announced the discovery of the rodent species in a Laotian market. (See "New Rodent Discovered at Asian Food Market" [May 16, 2005].)

But getting the first live pictures, which were released yesterday, was no accident.

David Redfield, professor emeritus of Florida State University's science education faculty, set out to find the animal, knowing that the Laotian rock rat (Laonastes aenigmamus) was the only living animal in a family whose other members became extinct more than 11 million years ago.

"We went to Laos specifically to find this animal," Redfield said.

With a Thai colleague, wildlife biologist Uthai Treesucon, Redfield trapped his quarry in limestone outcroppings near the village of Doy in central Laos.

Finding it was "an absolute thrill," Redfield said. "We photographed it with stills and a movie camera. Then we took it back to its habitat and released it."

—Nick Bakalar

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