Some survive in the wild, some in botanical gardens, some in seed banks, and in some cases, were thought be a different species and given a new name:
The new research began over suspicions that some records of extinct seed plants published in the scientific literature and used in a global 2019 analysis by Govaerts and colleagues were imprecise. Giulia Albani Rocchetti, a plant biologist and PhD student at the University of Roma Tre in Rome, and her colleagues set out to double-check the status of European species with local researchers in different countries, suspecting they may have updates on the taxa. This endeavor was inspired in part by a 2020 report for which researchers had done the same to verify the status of North American plants and questioned the reported extinction of 14 species…
Govaerts cautions that taxonomy is constantly evolving and the recent revisions may not be set in stone. It’s also not clear if the herbarium seeds—or even the whole-plant specimens—will lead to self-sustaining plant populations.
He adds that delisting is always good news. Beyond the obvious, the problem with declaring something extinct is that species then lose conservation attention and legal protection. Studies like this highlight that extinction listings aren’t necessarily permanent endpoints, but fluid designations. “Extinct means, well, we haven’t found it for a hundred years, but you may turn a different corner and there it suddenly is.”Katarina Zimmer, “Seventeen “Extinct” European Plant Species Found Alive” at The Scientist
The paper is open access.
These species that just turn up again are sometimes called “Lazarus species.” Many were possibly always rare and looking for them wasn’t anyone’s fulltime job.
The Darwinian focus on “species” and speciation may be a handicap here. Not only are extinction listings fluid but so, probably, are a lot of species. No doubt there will be other surprises as well. Nice ones.