Real-life Pokemon: Facts About Zenkerella, Creature Hasn’t Evolved For 30 Million Years

Real-life Pokemon: Facts About Zenkerella, Creature Hasn’t Evolved For 30 Million Years
Zenkerella insignis Joseph Smit / Wikipedia Public Domain

While nearly all species in the animal kingdom have evolved significantly over the past million years, one species of African squirrel, what scientists call the ultimate Pokemon, Zenkerella, remain relatively unevolved.


This, according to a team of researchers from the University of Southern California (USC), which studied scaly-tailed African squirrel Zenkerella insignis. The elusive rodent has never been seen alive by scientists in the past 20 years, making it one of the least studied mammals in the world.

Ultimate Pokemon

In a statement, Erick Seiffert, lead author of the study published in the journal Peer J, considered the Zenkerella as the ultimate Pokemon scientists are yet to catch and see alive in the past two decades. Seiffert said one of the reasons the rodent remains hard to find is its nocturnal behavior.

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“Zenkerella could be seen as the ultimate Pokémon that scientists have still not been able to find or catch alive. After all, it probably only shows up in the middle of the night, deep in the jungles of central Africa, and might spend most of its time way up in tall trees where it would be particularly hard to see,” Seiffert said in a statement issued by the USC.

Pokemon Zenkerella insignis

Recently, Seiffert’s team spotted three dead specimens of Zenkerella in the heart of the Central African jungle. The team conducted a DNA analysis on the recovered rodent, which resulted to useful information about the the species’ evolutionary adaptation.

One of the major findings of the study was the placement of Zenkerella into a separate family, Zenkerellidae, which falls under the superfamily Anomaluroidea for possessing a scaled tail anatomically important for providing support when climbing trees.

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The three newly curated specimens, considered living fossils, add to the existing 11 curated specimen of Zenkerella across the world.

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