Information about the lobe-finned fish, Coelacanth

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Dinosaur Jungle   >   Other Prehistoric Animals   >   Coelacanth

Coelacanth



Coelacanth

Scientific Classification
  Kingdom Animalia
  Phylum Chordata
  Class Sarcopterygii
  Subclass Actinistia
  Infraclass Coelacanthimorpha
  Order Coelacanthiformes
Coelacanths are an order of lobe-finned fish related to lungfish and tetrapods. They first appeared in the Devonian period, and for many years, were believed to have gone extinct at the Cretaceous period. However, a living specimen was found in a fishing net brought ashore in South Africa in 1938 (and since then other specimens have brought ashore at a number of locations around the Indian Ocean).

Coelacanth were very successful and widespread from the Devonian until the Cretaceous. Scientists now think that what happened is that they suffered a near total extinction at the end of the Cretaceous. that wiped out all shallow-water species, and left only hard-to-find deep-water species (fossils are rarely lifted from, or recovered from, deep-water locations). Because of their apparent disappearance from the fossil record for millions of years, and their later discovery alive, Coelacanths are known as a "Lazarus taxon".

One interesting aside about Coelacanths is that they are offered described in the popular media as having been unchanged for millions of years, but this is not the case. Neither of the two currently known living species, nor any other members of their genus, have been found in the fossil record.

Coelacanth Timeline:



Coelacanth is a lobe-finned fish that first appeared during the Devonian

Coelacanth is a lobe-finned fish that first appeared during the Devonian


Related Information & Resources


See Also

Coelacanth Books


Here are some books from Amazon.com:

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A Fish Caught in Time: The Search for the Coelacanth
By Samantha Weinberg

Harper Perennial
Released: 2001-02-06
Paperback (220 pages)

A Fish Caught in Time: The Search for the Coelacanth
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The coelacanth (see-lo-canth) is no ordinary fish. Five feet long, with luminescent eyes and limb like fins, this bizarre creature, presumed to be extinct, was discovered in 1938 by an amateur icthyologist who recognized it from fossils dating back 400 million years. The discovery was immediately dubbed the "greatest scientific find of the century," but the excitement that ensued was even more incredible. This is the entrancing story of that most rare and precious fish -- our own great-uncle forty million times removed.

Coelacanth: The Greatest Fish Story Ever Told (The Aquitaine Reluctant Readers Series) (Volume 2)
By Mary Jo Nickum

Aquitaine Ltd
Paperback (78 pages)

Coelacanth: The Greatest Fish Story Ever Told (The Aquitaine Reluctant Readers Series) (Volume 2)
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The primitive-looking coelacanth (pronounced SEEL-uh-kanth) was thought to have gone extinct with the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. But its discovery in 1938 by a South African museum curator on a local fishing trawler fascinated the world and ignited a debate about how this bizarre lobe-finned fish fits into the evolution of land animals. There are only two known species of coelacanths: one that lives near the Comoros Islands off the east coast of Africa, and one found in the waters of Sulawesi, Indonesia. Many scientists believe that the unique characteristics of the coelacanth represent an early step in the evolution of fish to terrestrial four-legged animals like amphibians.
The Annotated Old Fourlegs: The Updated Story of the Coelacanth
By Mike Bruton

University Press of Florida
Released: 2018-02-01
Paperback (328 pages)

The Annotated Old Fourlegs: The Updated Story of the Coelacanth
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The latest episode in the greatest fish discovery ever made

"The appearance of the Coelacanth was like a gigantic tidal wave which washed me violently from my path, held me in its grip, carried me along, and set my feet on a quest that dominated some of the best years of my life."--JLB Smith, Old Fourlegs: The Story of the Coelacanth

When scientist JLB Smith published Old Fourlegs: The Story of the Coelacanth in 1956, he created an international sensation. A dramatic account of the discovery of a creature thought to have been extinct for 65 million years, the book brought science into the living rooms of thousands. It was published in six English editions and translated into ten foreign languages. The Annotated Old Fourlegs brings this incredible story back to life for today’s readers. Smith's famous account begins with the finding of a strange fish off the coast of South Africa by a local fisherman. As large as a person, the fish had fins like arms and vicious snapping jaws. Smith became certain that what had been caught was the legendary coelacanth, previously known only through fossils. The book follows Smith’s obsessive drive to track down other specimens and to learn more about this extraordinary fish that has lived on Earth from the era of the dinosaurs to modern times. The Annotated Old Fourlegs features a facsimile reprint of the original book with extensive margin notes, providing insights on JLB Smith, updates on coelacanth research, and comments on the coelacanth's influence on contemporary culture. Mike Bruton, an ichthyologist who has dedicated his life to continuing the pioneering studies begun by Smith, provides a new introduction and concluding chapters that bring the coelacanth story up to date.
Fossil Fish Found Alive: Discovering the Coelacanth (Carolrhoda Photo Books)
By Sally M. Walker

Brand: Carolrhoda Books
Released: 2002-01-01
Library Binding (64 pages)

Fossil Fish Found Alive: Discovering the Coelacanth (Carolrhoda Photo Books)
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Product Description:

Seventy million years ago, deep in the ocean, a bluish fish hovers in a cave. Like the dinosaurs, the fish's kind is about to become extinct. Or is it? Millions of years later, a bizarre blue fish is caught near East London, South Africa. To the museum curator who first studies it, it looks like an ancient fossil fish. But it can't be. The fossil fishes have all been extinct for eons... So begins the story of the coelacanth, a fish that survived the wave of extinction that killed the dinosaurs. From underwater quests for hidden populations to the dissection of the coelacanth's unique organs, this gripping scientific drama brings to life the thrill of discovery.

The Amazing Coelacanth
By Mike Bruton

Penguin Random House South Africa
Released: 2018-07-24
Paperback (64 pages)

The Amazing Coelacanth
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In 1938 a 400-million-year-old fish – known only from fossil remains and thought to have become extinct around 66 million years ago – was discovered living off the shores of southern Africa.

This fascinating book for younger readers tells the story of the coelacanth – what it is, what makes it special, how it was discovered, where it evolved, how it gives live birth, how and what it eats, and what eats it! With multiple illustrations and photographs and interesting text, this book will be an inspiration to a new generation of ichthyologists, palaeontologists, divers, and anyone with an interest in the natural world.
Living Fossil: The Story of the Coelacanth
By Keith Thomson

W. W. Norton & Company
Released: 1992-07-17
Paperback (253 pages)

Living Fossil: The Story of the Coelacanth
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  • Paperback with picture of the coelacanth. 252 pages
Product Description:

"An engrossing tale of obsession, adventure and scientific reasoning." ―Betty Ann Kevles, Los Angeles Times

In the winter of 1938, a fishing boat by chance dragged from the Indian Ocean a fish thought extinct for 70 million years. It was a coelacanth, which thrived concurrently with dinosaurs and pterodactyls―an animal of major importance to those who study the history of vertebrate life.

Living Fossil describes the life and habitat of the coelcanth and what scientists have learned about it during fifty years of research. It is an exciting and very human story, filled with ambitious and brilliant people, that reveals much about the practice of modern science.
Old Fourlegs,: The story of the coelacanth
By J. L. B Smith

Longmans, Green
Hardcover (260 pages)

Old Fourlegs,: The story of the coelacanth
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Dust jacket notes: "Old Fourlegs is the story of the most sensational scientific discovery in natural history of this century, told by the scientist who is the central figure throughout. It starts with the capture, just before Christmas 1938, of a peculiar fish by a South African trawler near East London. By the time that Professor J. L. B. Smith saw this fish it had been mounted and the soft parts gone beyond recovery. While almost doubting the evidence of his senses he pronounced it to be a Coelacanth, a type of prehistoric fish known only from fossils and believed to have become extinct at least fifty million years ago. This discovery caused the greatest sensation, and as all parts of so ancient a type are of great scientific interest, it became imperative to find more specimens. Professor Smith deduced that this Coelacanth must have been a stray, whose true home probably lay somewhere in the reefs of the wild seas along East Africa. Alone in this view, indeed against the opinions of almost all other scientists, he and his wife carried out a series of arduous expeditions covering most of the wildest parts of the tropical western Indian Ocean, excepting French waters. Thousands of leaflets in English, French and Portuguese, giving a picture of the Coelacanth and offering a reward were sent to all parts including French possessions. This long lonely search over no less than fourteen years ultimately achieved success, the thriling climax involving South Africa's Prime Minister and a dramatic flight in a military plane from South Africa to a little known island in the remote Comoro archipelago, now definitely established as the home of this living fossil."
Fossil fish coelacanth story of illusion - Forever Gonbessa (1988) ISBN: 4092900813 [Japanese Import]
Shogakukan
Tankobon Hardcover

Fossil fish coelacanth story of illusion - Forever Gonbessa (1988) ISBN: 4092900813 [Japanese Import]
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Extant: The Coelacanth Project Book 1
By Sarah Newland

Hiking Hedgehog Press, LLC
Paperback (319 pages)

Extant: The Coelacanth Project Book 1
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Every family has secrets and Natalie Morrigan was used to being kept in the dark. But when her childhood home is destroyed following her parents mysterious disappearance, Natalie soon discovers her secrets are darker than most. With no where else to turn, Natalie and her four lifelong friends seek out their estranged Uncle for guidance and he cannot wait to tell her the truth. Her entire life has been a lie. Genetically adapted with a power that will change the world, Natalie is hunted by Nautilus: an organization that claims it will use her power to achieve an everlasting peace. But if Natalie has learned anything, it’s that things aren’t always what they seem.Question everything.
Search for a Living Fossil: The Story of the Coelacanth
By Eleanor Clymer

Scholastic Book Services
Paperback (121 pages)

Search for a Living Fossil: The Story of the Coelacanth
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A fish with legs? That's what it looked like - the strange blue monster from the bottom of the sea. Scientists thought that creatures like this had died out 70 million years ago. But here it was - a living fossil! Could they find another? That's when the search began....


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