After nearly 30 years of extinction, the rare silver-backed chevrotain has re-emerged (to haunt your dreams)
There are mythical creatures we all not-so-secretly hope to one day discover are out there roaming the earth. Unicorns. Bigfoot. Mermaids. Dragons. But a tiny deer-like creature with hooves and fangs? Not exactly the first thing that springs to mind. And yet here we are, grappling with video footage from a camera trap showing just such a creature.
According to National Geographic, the quizzical animal is known as the silver-backed chevrotain (Tragulus versicolor) — and for at least three decades, it was feared to be extinct. However, scientists launched an exhaustive search in the hopes that they may find proof the silver-backed chevrotain had returned. Thanks to the camera traps, they got it.
Between November 2017 and July 2018, the expedition team managed to catch the fanged deer-mouse on camera 280 times. “It’s a really cool species, and we’d long hoped to find proof they were still around,” Andrew Tilker, a Global Wildlife Conservation biologist, told National Geographic. The findings were published last month in Nature Ecology & Evolution and, not surprisingly, the news has now taken the internet by storm.
As its name would suggest, the creature looks like the lovechild of a mouse and a deer. And maybe a dash of vampire-bunny thrown into the mix, too? The size of a large rabbit, it has hooves and a silver sheen on its rump. “They walk on the tips of their hooves and very cautiously tiptoe around on those skinny legs,” noted Tilker. It also has tusk-like incisors that are visible in new photos of the recently resurfaced animals. Scientists assume that since males of the species lack antlers but have especially long fangs, those gnarly teeth may be used to compete for territory as well as the attention of females. As in, they use those needle-like fangs to stab each other.
If you’re wondering what exactly these little guys are, well, join the club. Like the duckbilled platypus, they seem to be a genuine mashup of multiple animals. So, it’s hard to guess their actual classification. Per Mental Floss, mouse deer like the silver-backed chevrotain share a suborder with deer but are not considered “true deer.” They have their own family, Tragulidae. In other words, they really are effectively mysteries of nature. Some people consider them living fossils, as they’re the most primitive of ruminants.
All of that to say, yes, the re-emergence of the silver-backed chevrotain is super-exciting scientific find — which makes it inherently cool. But, like, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s also nightmare fuel, right? On the plus-plus side, though, the re-discovery of these strange creatures gives hope that other species thought to be extinct may soon be found. Insisted Tilker, “We shouldn’t give up on them just because we haven’t seen them in a long time.”
Or maybe ever? Unicorns and mermaids, we’re holding out for you to make a cameo in 2020.
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