Sunday, October 3, 2010


Coelocanths are an entire order of lobe-fined fishes that were believed to have died out during the Cretaceous Extinction 65 million years ago. Fossil specimens of 125 species have been identified, some dating back 400 million years. Everyone thought they were a creature of the past and then all of that thought kicked the bucket when a living species of Coelocanth was caught by fishermen off the coast of South Africa in 1938. Since then, dozens of these fish have been found off the east coast of Africa, and in 1998 a second living species was discovered in the waters outside of Sulawesi, Indonesia.

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Coelocanths are so amazing because they really are living fossils. They are lobed finned fish, a class of animals that is now largely extinct but that also includes half a dozen species of extant Lungfish. The fins of Coelocanths jut outwards from the body and rotate almost as if the fish were walking. If is no surprise that lobed finned fish were the descendants of all Tetrapods!

Coelocanths also have a few other special features, including an electrosensitive organ in their snout that helps them detect prey. They also have no vertebrae, and their "spine" is actually a notochord; an oil filled tube that provides the body with support. Coelocanths also have an intercranial joint that allows their mouths to open especially wide in order to swallow prey whole. Coelocanths can reach lengths of up to 6 feet and weigh over 200lbs. Females are ovoviviparous, and two pup baring females have been caught.

It is estimated that there are around 1,000 Coelocanths left, all of which lives at depths of up to 2,300ft. They are an endangered species and are protected by CITES.

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