Sciencespeak: Lazarus taxon
It’s a science fiction staple. An intrepid explorer is walking through the woods when they stumble across an ancient organism not seen for millions of years. Dinosaurs are choice for such appearances, but pterosaurs and other prehistoric critters do just as well. In text and on film, they manage to persist in some isolated pocket where extinction spared them. But such scenarios are not restricted to the realm of fantasy.
In July of 1943, while traveling through eastern China, forestry official Zhan Wang heard a tantalizing rumor. In the town of Moudao, the principal of Xian Agriculture High School told him, there grew a tree that no one could identify. That was enough for Zhan. He altered his travel route across