According to “science,” the coelacanth (Latimeria) went extinct 65 million years ago. After all, this carnivorous fish dates back some 400 million years to the age of dinosaurs — or so said the all-knowing men in the white lab coats. Along came a South African museum curator on a fishing trawler in 1938. Lo and behold, he caught himself a DinoFish!
A Few Things to Know About the Coelacanth
- They are most definitely NOT extinct.
- There are two known species. One lives off the east coast of Africa where the 1938 discovery was made. The other can be found in the waters near Sulawesi, Indonesia.
- Coelacanths live at depths up to 2,300 feet below the surface. To adjust to the poor light, their eyes use rods that absorb mostly short wavelengths. Coelacanth vision has mainly blue-shifted color capacity.
- They are believed to be “passive drift feeders” and their diet consists mainly of cephalopods and fish.
- Coelacanths typically swim slowly, conserving energy. Thanks to all their fins (more about that soon), when chasing prey or avoiding danger, a coelacanth can move and maneuver quickly.
- They are not pleasant tasting to humans and this may explain part of the DinoFish’s long-term survival.
- Coelacanths can live 100 years.
- Females hit sexual maturity in their late 50s. Males are sexually mature at 40 to 69 years. A coelacanth pregnancy lasts about five years.
- One of the most interesting of coelacanth characteristics is its abundance of fins which may have marked an early step toward four-legged amphibians.
Here’s how the folks at National Geographic explain the coelacanth’s unique overall anatomy and physiology:
The most striking feature of this ‘living fossil’ is its paired lobe fins that extend away from its body like legs and move in an alternating pattern, like a trotting horse. Other unique characteristics include a hinged joint in the skull which allows the fish to widen its mouth for large prey; an oil-filled tube, called a notochord, which serves as a backbone; thick scales common only to extinct fish; and an electro-sensory rostral organ in its snout likely used to detect prey.