The Coelacanth Fish
A Coelacanth is a fish that lives in the Indian Ocean; it is also called the lobe-finned fish. Coelacanths are very rare today: only two species survive from this once plentiful group. Their fossil record goes back 400 million years, before any land vertebrates had evolved. Coelacanth is pronounced 'see-la-canth'
The Coelacanth is the only living example of the otherwise fossil Coelacanth fishes. They are also the closest link between fish and the first amphibian creatures which made the transition from sea to land in the Devonian period (408-362 million years ago). It was thought to have been extinct for 80 million years until one was caught alive off the east African coast in 1938. It is probably the best-known Lazarus taxon.That such a creature could have existed unrecorded for so long is rare, but perhaps the cold depths of the West Indian ocean at which the Coelacanth thrives, and the small number of predators it has, may have helped the species survive for so long. Its disgusting taste means that fishermen did not deliberately try to catch it, that is, before scientists started offering rewards.
The Coelacanth was first discovered in 1938 by Marjorie Courtenay Latimer, the curator of a small museum in the South African port town of East London, as she was visiting a fisherman who would let her search through his boat's catch for interesting specimens. The second species was found off the Comoros islands in the Indonesian archipelago in 1952. The largest specimen was about 1.8 metres (~6ft).
The population living off Tanzania is threatened by Japanese trawlers, but the fish is not edible. They are simply caught in trawls by accident. More than 20 have died this way, and their total numbers cannot be large.
See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coelacanth
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