Coelacanth

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Coelacanth

A deep-sea fish that closely resembles its ancestors, which lived at least 300 million years ago, it is more closely related to lungfish, reptiles and mammals than to modern-day ray-finned fishes. They are found along the coastlines of the Indian Ocean and Indonesia.


Scientific & Common Names

Two known extant species, the West Indian Ocean coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) and the Indonesian coelacanth (Latimeria menadoensis).


Characteristics

The coelacanth can reach up to six feet long and is found lurking in caves deep beneath the waves (up to 700 feet deep) during the day. It comes out to feed at night, when it swallows its prey whole.

This is partly possible because of its intracranial joint, a feature not found in any other living animal. The intracranial joint allows the coelacanth’s jaws to open extra wide.

Another feature unknown in living animals— though it has been identified in the fossil record— is the rostral organ. Scientists think this large, jelly-filled cavity in the coelacanth’s snout is thought to be an electrosensory device for detecting weak electrical impulses given off by prey.

Its fleshy lobe-like fins, like those of lungfish, are a sign that it is more closely related to non-fish creatures than modern fishes. They are thought to be the precursors to land animals’ limbs.


History

Over 125 species of coelacanth are known in the fossil record, but the entire order was thought to have gone extinct 66 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous, before a living [http:/safariltd.com/products/view/wild-safari-dinosaurs-coelacanth-figurines-285729 coelacanth] was caught by a fisherman in 1938 off the coast of South Africa.


Present Status

Only two species in this order are known. Because of the rarity of sightings, they are believed to be critically endangered. Scientists emphasize the need for care during deep-sea trawling, when coelacanth are caught in nets as by-catch.


References

"Coelacanth." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 6 Mar. 2014. Web. 8 June 2014. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coelacanth

Tyson, Peter. "Anatomy of the Coelacanth." PBS. PBS, 1 Jan. 2003. Web. 8 June 2014. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/nature/anatomy-coelacanth.html

"DINOFISH.com - COELACANTH: THE FISH OUT OF TIME." DINOFISH.com - COELACANTH: THE FISH OUT OF TIME. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 June 2014. http://www.dinofish.com/