Latimeria, named for Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, the curator of East London's Museum, is a living representative of the lobe-finned fish Coelacanth. It is often called a living fossil. Coelacanth (Hollow spine) belongs to the oldest lineage of fish currently known to science. The oldest found Coelacanth fossils imply that the Coelacanth fish species developed during the Devonian period. Coelacanthiform lobe-finned fish were a large group comprising about 90 valid species that were distributed worldwide in both marine and freshwaters. Fossil finds declined steadily until the Late Cretaceous extinction when Coelacanths disappear from the fossil record and were assumed extinct.
1. Genera & species
3. History of Discovery
Genera and Species
Classification: Sarcopterygii, Actinistia, Coelacanthimorpha, Coelacanthiformes, Latimeridae, Latimeria.
Species: L. chalumnae, L. menadoensis
Latimeria had proportionately small fins and a tail fin that was split into three parts called ‘lobes’ with two dorsal fins on the back. It had thick scales for armor, not found in modern fish. It had a blue color with a pattern of white spots that was different for each individual.
WEIGHT: 80 kg.
Coelacanths give birth to live young. They prey on smaller fish and sharks.
History of Discovery
Discovered by J. L. B. Smith, in 1939.
Latimeria is found living off the coast of East Africa and Indonesia in the depths at the base of islands and in caves during the day. Fossil Coelacanths are known worldwide in a range of fresh and marine environments. Lobe-finned fish are considered close to origins of land vertebrates. The classic theory of Alfred Romer theorized that the lobe-finned fish first used the fleshy rays of their fins to walk on the bottom of lakes and over time the lobes became legs. It now seems that amphibians developed the lung fish line of lobe-finned fish, not Coelacanths, and legs did not develop from the rays of lobed fins.
1. Coelacanths and their living examples the Latimeria. (n.d.). Retrieved May 22, 2014, from http://www.prehistoric-wildlife.com/articles/coelacanths-and-latimeria.html.
2. Knol, R. (2007, August 25). Paleozoic Seas in the Devonian. Retrieved May 22, 2014, from http://www.dinosaurcollectorsitea.com/devonian.htm.