IT WAS thought to have become extinct 11 million years ago — a chipmunk-sized, brush-tailed rodent with a long head and quick paws well-suited for scooting across the rock escarpments of ancient China and Pakistan.
Then last year in central Laos, Western scientists spotted an unusual animal carcass in a meat market near the Mekong River. So unusual, in fact, that it turned out to represent a new rodent family — the first new mammal family to be announced in 30 years.
The researchers called it Laonastes aenigmamus — the Laotian “rock rat”. Local people call it “kha-nyou”.
It turned out that kha-nyou is a textbook example of a phenomenon known as the “Lazarus effect”.