Tripping Through Taxons: Where Elvis Meets Zombies, Ghosts, and Lazarus

in taxonomy •  2 years ago  (edited)

Elvis and zombies belong together in a tabloid. Las Vegas has a wedding chapel where you can be married by either one (or other themed characters of your choice). The Grand Theft Auto game franchise has a Zombie Elvis. A heavy metal parody band has a zombie Elvis clown.

There is a Zombie Elvis costume for Halloween and a Gangnam Style takeoff video in which a Zombie Elvis dances to the bloody rain of a thousand bullets. The list goes on.

MacSabbath CC Skibbz777.jpg
The MacSabbath heavy metal parody band with a zombie Elvis clown (Source: Creative Commons via Wikipedia by Skibbz777). The zombie Elvis tabloid featured in the Grand Theft Auto franchise (Rockstar Games).

So what happens when Lazarus joins the party? If you’re thoroughly confused by now, you’re not alone. I’ll take a step back and explain how I got here.

Recently, I was reading a news article and stopped to look up the definition for a term that I found. One thing led to another, as it often does on the Internet, and soon I came across the Wikipedia entry for something called the dawn redwood. Its story was amazing and I wondered what other organisms have had a similar history. That led me down the proverbial rabbit hole where I learned about the unique attributes of the Elvis, Lazarus, and Zombie Taxons.

These taxons are fascinating. Let me explain them.

Don’t Taxon Me

No, I’m not raising your taxes. “Taxon” comes from “taxonomy” and is a unit of biological classification.

Classification Thinglink.png
The Tree of Life is a way of visualizing how organisms are related to one another. The second chart shows the different levels of hierarchy (left column) and how humans fit (right column). Source:

Each species of plant, mammal, insect, bacteria, and any other living organism has its place in world and is described by science using a system of classification. These classifications (which include Family, Genus, and Species) enable any organism to be placed somewhere in the “tree of life” so that we can see how it is related to other organisms, living or extinct. And because the fossil record can be spotty and some parts are incomplete, new discoveries change the picture. Some things get moved around as we learn more about them.

The Dawn Redwood

If you have ever seen a redwood or sequoia tree, you’ll know that these conifers are still very much a part of our world. But there is one species (in its own genus) that lived in the Mesozoic period and appeared only in fossils. These fossils are 150 million years old. No other evidence of the dawn redwood tree existed, other than 150 million year old fossils.

Until somebody found one growing in China!

Dawn Redwood lanana.jpg
Dawn Redwood. Creative Commons via Flickr by Lanana.

So the last record of dawn redwoods was 150 million years ago, represented by just three fossils. Obviously, there was a lack of evidence, but it created a long gap in the historical record. And it turns out that these trees are very much alive and well, even if their population is rather small.

There is a forest of 5,000 of them growing in Lichuan, Hubei province, in China along with some smaller groves in that region. That forest is protected and celebrated now along with an effort to plant more dawn redwoods, which you can buy today at many nurseries. In addition, there has been an effort to plant a wild grove of them in North Carolina in the United States.

The Coelacanth

The coelacanth is another example of this. This primitive-looking fish was known only from fossils dating as far back as 360 million years ago. It was thought to have gone extinct 66 million years ago.

Then someone caught one off the coast of South Africa in 1938.

Coelacanth PD.JPG
Coelacanth. Public Domain.

Further research revealed that there were several populations of them living between Africa and Madagascar also, but because the fish live mostly in deep caves and are not near the coast that often, humans simply had not come into contact with them much. Decades later, another discovery was made of a population of coelacanths off the coast of Sulawesi in Indonesia. Fishermen there had been catching them for years and called them “King of the Sea”, although coelacanths do not taste very good.

Coelacanth distribution. Source: Wikipedia article linked below.

So not only is the coelacanth alive rather than extinct; it is represented by two separate living species on opposite sides of the greater Indian Ocean.

Lazarus Rises

The coelacanth, dawn redwood, Caspian horse, Worcester’s buttonquail, Laotian rock rat, Bermuda petrel, and bridled nailtailed wallaby all are examples of species that had been believed to have gone extinct, but later were found to be living. Therefore, each one left a gap in the official record. For some, that was mere decades after they were believed to have gone extinct, while others (such as the Coelacanth) were not confirmed by science to be living until millions of years after their “extinction”.

These are known as Lazarus taxons. They are given this title based on the Biblical figure of Lazarus, who was resurrected from the dead. But in fact, these species were not brought back to life; they were simply re-discovered by humans who had not known where to look before.

Not To Be Confused With Elvis

In the 1990s, scientists moved away from using Biblical references for taxa, instead adopting some descriptive names. They coined the term “Elvis taxon” for species that appeared to be Lazarus taxons, but later proved to be something else. Just as with Elvis impersonators and stories of Elvis sightings since his death in 1977, Elvis taxons turn out to be something different than they appear.

They’re just good impersonators.

Elvis impersonators, good or not. Source: 104.3 KHITS.

For example, there was a brachiopod (a kind of shellfish) that lived during the Triassic period and was thought to have survived the extinction that killed off many other life forms during this time. It was thought to have survived because something very similar was found later in the fossil record. However, that later fossil turned out to be a distinct organism, even if it had similar adaptations. So what appeared to have been a Lazarus taxon was really a different organism that belonged in a separate genus.

A hacked road sign. Source: Treehugger.

Zombie Alert!

Zombie taxons are ones that end up in the wrong place. This can confuse everyone for a while. An example will help illustrate the concept.

Let’s say there is a cliff with fossil deposits in it. On the edge of the cliff sites a fossilized dinosaur egg, embedded in the soil of the cliff. Then there is a strong storm with lots of rain and it washes away the dirt, sending the dino egg tumbling down the hill. Eventually, it settles in the ground as part of another layer from a much later period of history.

So someone excavating later strata in the earth might be looking mostly at mammal bones. But then something very curious emerges…a dinosaur egg, from millions of years after they should have been dead?

Fossil strata in cliff. Source: Creative Commons via Flickr by Pommiebastards.

Time to rewrite history! Dinosaurs survived the great extinction events and lived among later mammals! Except that this conclusion is not warranted because we know the fossil came from an early deposit and was washed into this later one.

That is known as a zombie taxon.

Who Let the Ghosts In?

Zombies, Elvis, and Lazarus. You thought I was done now, didn’t you? But I forgot to mention fossil ghosts. These are not the fossils that spring to life in the Night at the Museum movies. A ghost taxon is an organism that is presumed to have existed in the past, even if there’s no direct record of it. Either statistics or the adaptations that organisms have made can predict the past existence of something that must have been there, but just has not shown up itself in the fossil record.

Now all we need is a witch and a vampire. We’ll be all ready for Halloween.

Halloween Fossils. Source: Bluff Country Fossils.


Vegas Weddings:
Grand Theft Auto:!
Dawn Redwood:
Indonesian Coelacanth:
Coelacanth Wikipedia:
Time Article:,28804,2105239_2105240_2105283,00.html
Elvis Taxa GeoScienceWorld:
Elvis Taxon Wikipedia:
Zombie Taxon Wikipedia:

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Cool post man. Interesting stuff. I also like the detail put into the construction!

Did you say zombie? :P What you think of Zombie-Zane LOL.

Wow how can science use such strange favorite is the ghost taxon sounds almost like you have to have faith. There are no records of it in the fossil history but because specimen a and specimen e existed ghost taxon g surly must have existed? Your post was clearly explained thank you for taking us all along for the trip I enjoyed the analogies and cant go wrong with an zombie Elvis @donkeypong.

Yes, lots of analogies. For the ghost taxon, it also reminds me of astronomy, where astronomers can guess from the data that a distant celestial body must have a moon, even if they can't see it.

This is great !!
check out my article on how any devices can easily be hacked using wifi

Yes. Not to be confused, Elvis Presley is one of my favorite singer. The king og Rock 'n Roll.

I will have to go with the GTA option @donkeypong lol, I really like the info graphics everything is connected and related kind of what they tech you in the lion king, the redwood how amazing to have such a tree and that they are still about hope more will grow anyway yes Halloween is just around the corner.

Haha, the Lion King...I might be missing that reference in the post.

Halloween theme for a wedding is kinda creepy but cool. My husband is from Vegas and had photos of friends like this :D

To me, it seems like a strange way to celebrate a special day, but everyone is different. Might as well have fun, I guess.

Generations continue to change, but Elvis is still remembered and eternal @donkeypong.

Thank You @donkeypong. I have No Idea what I just was reading but I liked it and I did learn about some things that I have never been exposed to before..................I have always been somewhat skeptical about the age of things when science says that they are millions of years old. How do they really even know or even have the slightest Clue ???

You could read up on dating methods and do a post on them perhaps:

Now that is Funny

Oh my gosh LOL this made me so interested and entertained at the same time. I wish you had been my high school science teacher!! haha upvote and absolute follow for pure entertainment!

Now there's an idea for another career.

Now I know since you shared it. Have learn some good science in this post. :)

This post has to be the result of a bet. I can see it now... Someone said "Hey Donkeypong, I bet you can't write a post connecting the Bible, video games, Elvis, Zombies, science, and Las vegas!" and you were like "Challenge accepted!" Congratulations on your victory. At some point I hope you write a post revealing what your prize was.

Well played sir. Well played.

Wait a minute. Was the bet to use every letter in the English language? Because you did that as well.

No, I discovered these things just the way I explained in the post...really. I think scientists have been having some fun with these names. That one journal article was a manifesto for moving away from Biblical names. See what they ended up with instead.

LOL. "No Bible huh? We'll show them!"

Haha true!

P.S: Who let the ghosts In? What a title!

Woah. Analogies. Analogies. What if those that they said were already extinct are actually still present somewhere like in the case of Coelacanth. Sounds interesting. I am so ready for Halloween. 😁

Bring on the Halloween posts. It's never too early. :)

@donkeypong Yeah i will. I am a November baby and Halloween is happening during late October to early november so this should be my forte. Lol I'll try to post abt Halloween stories one of these days

I was reading your post and found it to be very enjoyable to read!! Rest in pieces! hahahaha lol

Sir that's one deep rabbit hole you fell into. Internet can do many things to travellers for information alright. This is an amazing read, where it starts with an intriguing title, hooking story, and connecting sub-sections. Learning from this.

As a former anthropologist, I saw the types of taxons that you describe here all too often. It is like finding a modern skeleton mingled with mammoth bones. It had happened here in Texas and caused a bit of a stir since we knew the historical record. As it turned out, the land was filled in several years prior to reduce land erosion from nearby swamps. The soil came from land where a cemetery had been removed and resettled. Guess they left one behind but the skeleton was dumped in a layer just above the mammoth skeleton. I suppose that would be your zombie taxon.

Great story. And let's not forget the Piltdown Man, though that 'mistake' involved some human intervention.

Yes, even in our line of work there are frauds. It makes it more difficult to validate authentic finds.

Interesting. I'd heard of the coelacanth being rediscovered, but not the others. I wonder if it really tastes that bad or if they just haven't figured out how to cook it properly? I always hear people in Japan say they don't like Thai food because they use cilantro. It usually turns out that they haven't eaten real Thai food, and have only eaten cilantro as a plain vegetable!

BTW, if yore at all into the science of plant medicines, please give some support to @lorenzohagerty
He is the host of the Psychedelic Salon podcast and just joined Steemit. He also knows a lot of people that he could possibly spread the Steemit word to, such as Joe Rogan.

Thanks for the suggestion.

Thank you @donkeypong !

@donkeypong - Gosh - Lazarus, Elvis, Zombie and Ghosts - Some of those guys who names them seem to have been a fan of the movies like 'Van Helsing'. Only then could they have dreamed up such names. Though, in the context that you have explained them, they do make sense I think.
I am a bit surprised that I have never come across this interesting info on taxons during my science studies during school or college. You certainly went down a rabbit hole in Alice in wonderland and came up with this information. Thanks for this interesting update. Upvoted full.


This awesome post took me a double read. I guess its because I am a Chemist. I will like to ask if this also falls into the field of anthropology ?

Now all we need is a witch and a vampire. We’ll be all ready for Halloween.

Halloween is almost here anyway. Time to scare some folks out.

Haha. Sure, it's multi-disciplinary.

Pls if you dont mind, what inspired this post?. Its multidisciplinary and intertwined. The linkage of Las vegas (sin city😂😂) with taxonomy, with Redwood of Mesozoic era(botany), Coelacanth (fishery) to Lazarus resurrection idea of naming, to alienic taxons and finally the witch wisdom to show up undiscovered organisms in the fossil record. Each of those is like a year in the university.

Another educative article. Weldone and thanks for sharing.

Wow.....i am amazed at history. Would never have research such knowledge. Very educative post. The Coelacanth looks beautiful, wish i would have the opportuniy to know what it taste like.

Not so tasty, from what I've read.

Wow. Now I gained some knowledge. Very interesting to read!
Thank you sir @donkeypong!

Fuck that was an awesome post. First time I hear of this tree! I will make sure to resteem you in a few hours for maximum exposure 😁

Praise from a real science person? Thanks. Keep up the great work with SteemSTEM.

Why don't you join us? You obviously have some talent for science posts :)

You can ask the guys over there. I've been one of the oldest supporters of science on this platform, mostly behind the scenes.

I'm just waiting for a serious science person to come along and say, "Wait, isn't it taxa, not taxons?"

  ·  2 years ago (edited)


P.S. Resteemed as promise ^_^

Recently, I was reading a news article and stopped to look up the definition for a term that I found. One thing led to another

Oh, the story of my life in University right there
"Let me watch a TED Talk on something random to gain some inspiration!"
-> Oh that one thing he mentioned in the middle was interesting, need to look that up.
-> 3 hours later I will have mastered everything there is to know about something about as far away from what I was initially supposed to sit down and learn as can be imagined.
(Usually referring to me learning something in quantum physics after listening to Richard Feynamn, or something in cosmology after watching Neil deGrasse Tyson, while I Was supposed to do business cycle analysis or resource economics. Which I guess is how it all makes sense that I ended up as an economist in the space sector ;p)

Back on topic, how do I dress up as a ghost taxon for Halloween?

I remember learning things before the Internet was widespread, but I don't remember how I did that.
You need an invisibility cloak.

OMG. Next thing we are going to find is hidden dinosaurs in Mexico! LOL WOW really fascinating article.

haha just for kicks.... I found you a witch and flying cats. :P LOL

Never knew that it was called with these terms. Interesting read.

Wow, I wonder what else are deemed extinct but then found later in a hidden village, as pets. Or the owners themselves were extinct??! Mind blown!

Maybe Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster?

  ·  2 years ago Reveal Comment

You know that's going to stand the test of time, 'till death do us part.

We have got people who relate zpmbies and ghosts to a phylum in chordata.....IRONY...AAHHH

Lol but nice sharing

Excellent article and doubles Presley pleased, still remember the style of Elvis. Thank you @donkeypong

I make design for you @donkeypong please check my blog...
You have nice post.. Nice to see you tom
I resteem this post..

This post was very informative thank you for sharing
you have my upvote


This is an educative article. Thanks for sharing..

Good amaizing

this sounds like a crazy place to get married thanks @donkeypong for making it so interesting and sound like a place I would like to see.

Welllll i think this post needs to be upvoted

Wow. Now I gained some knowledge. Very interesting to read!
Thank you sir

look at this post i just posted about of indian red fort history really a awesome fort

thanks for the information. what your news is useful for us all ..

Thats some weird illustrating eyeopening Stuff i just read keep on going @donkeypong

Every good

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  ·  2 years ago (edited)

this one makes my day very beautiful
it makes me feel happy a little more
i read all the post and i enjoyed during reading
lovely content , works well
i guess this is my first visit in your post
love your work buddy, you gave your 100%
and i think i am fall in love with ghost taxon
please keep posting , it was wonderful knowledge
upvoted and resteem

I like the, Impressive.


Wow, this post terrifying once. Thanks @donkeypong,have a nice day

resteemed :)

finally I get the idea to lift this posted be my presentation material. Thanks @donkeypong hehe


very good

Very educative good article

gracias por compartir este contenido con nosotros te di un voto espero que te guste

The best

Thanks ; Nice sharing ;D

Weird names!!

Wow amazing

Badut badut lucu dan jelex,,, capex ga sich jadi badut,,, pande nyanyi pula to badut,,,

I once read about the Coelacanth sometimes ago, that it is closely related to lungfish, reptiles, and mammals, even more than their presumed ray-finned fish descent. Do you know they're not the only creatures thought to have gone into extinction and latter found alive?

Very nice chart belonging to the all taxonomy @donkeypong quiet interesting to read your post

many zombies exist. but what is really a zombie? Another kind of human, oder kind of animal ? upvoted :-)

Excellent post! I feel I need to thank you.

This is a rollercoaster read @donkeypong. I enjoyed it :)

Nature can not be destroy but it can be always show evidence that really exist. we still have to look deep into the nature to discover how beautiful and reserve this earth was

a good post my friends love it greetings from me.

owo this is amazing !!!!!!!!! thank for shereing

Please tell me zombies are not real or i wont be able to sleep tonight

Follow & upvote @juplek

Congratulations @donkeypong!
Your post was mentioned in the hit parade in the following category:

  • Pending payout - Ranked 5 with $ 240,2

Hi @donkeypong wow what a post indeed talking or focusing on taxonomy as a topic running across Mr Elvis meeting with Zombies,Ghost and Lazarus perhaps according to my best of knowledge all of them had one thing in common they all had a peculiar re comeback after their death,this is fascinating history incorporated with science fiction making the whole narrative marvelous and incredible in the eyes of the reader,lastly this is a good piece of creativity thank you mr donkeypong for your post and keep posting such good content stuff on Steemit.

Ghosts walk among us! Really like this article so I Upvoted and Resteemed. Will follow you account too. This was a fun read, thanks.

Very entertaining your post. it must be genitive to live the experience. I follow you

Am i reading a wikipedia article? That info just awesome. some might already i know but that three is weird. If it an fossil three that mean that three must be worth. Do they?
=> bxipp @cryptonewz

I find this scary and amusing at the same time.

I have never known before! Genuinely loved the content you choose

Wow what a great blog thank you for sharing.

That's cool am just new here

Amazing story.with your post I know that story.
Thank you @donkeypong.

Zombie??? I almost jumped out of my skin when I saw Zombie on this fascinating post. This image;

reminds me of a lovely movie, titled: 300 miles to Graceland. I hope I am not wrong with the movie's title. Thank you @donkeypong for bringing back good memories.

Such topics are really interesting especially the zombie and ghosts parts! ✌️ Thanks a lot dude for sharing, it refreshed my mood! 😊

Awesome post

such a interesting subject of scienceits realy amazing article....super i really enjoyed it after reading this article....

Warm-up post for the coming Halloween!

elvis will be remembered for centuries, even by today's millennium generation

Very interesting. I only read it because you wrote it and most of everything you write is worth a read. Then I found it to be quite entertaining and interesting!

@donkeypong i love your post..very informative on facts and even the history of zombies..the details of information fossils might very convincing too..

your content is great love your post buddy..upvoted

anyway i have a poem share with you kindly check it out if you have time.

Now I know since you shared it. Have learn some good science in this post. :)

every dog has his days! but elvis lives forevah! @donkeypong nice blogg sir!!

Nice sharing. Thanks