A look at the Coelacanth

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"A look at the Coelacanth"
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The coelacanth was once believed to be an extinct fish, but a number of them have been found in the past 100 years. Even as recent as 2007 two fishermen off the coast of Tanzania have caught one of these types of fish that are actually related to lungfishes and tetrapods. They are actually the closest known link between fish and amphibians.

They belong to the following classification:

Class Sarcopterygii
Subclass Coelacanthimorpha
Order Coelacanthiformes
Family - numerous extinct families, but Latimeria is the one found recently

Coelacanths actually date back close to 400 million years ago based on their fossil record and ancestors of this fish lived in many different bodies of water in the Paleozoic and Mesozoic times. They have changed slightly over the years, but they still closely resemble these prehistoric fishes and are the closest thing today to a living dinosaur.

The average weight of a coelacanth is around 80 kg and they can grow up to 1.5 to 2 meters in length, with the males of the species actually being smaller than the females. They usually live between 100 to 200 meters below sea level, and can possibly even go deeper than 700 meters below sea level. They have adapted to their environment very well and this could explain why they still survive after all these years and why many of them live to be 80 to 100 years old. Some scientists even believe that they can slow down their metabolic rate in these deeper waters, another factor contributing to their survival.

They feed on a variety of different species in their habitat and are meat eaters. Some of their normal diet includes squid, eels, small sharks and fish. Their are anatomically different than other fish as they have an extra lobe on their tail, paired lobed fins, and vertebrae that are not fully developed. It has a bony skeleton and is covered silver-blue scales which help to protect the fish. The are ovoviviparous which means they give birth to live young and eggs are fertilized internally.

All of these features have helped them adapt and survive for millions of years. They are not easy to find, but when they are found it just proves once again how adaptive these fish truly are.

More about this author: Dave Stanford

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