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Coelacanth fishes -- Living fossils

Coelacanths are primitive fish that were thought to be extinct. One day, it was accidently discovered in a fishing net. From then, studies and research of this rare species has led to surprising discoveries.

Coelacanth fish painting by Fact-Zap

Coelacanth is a fish that lived during the dinosaur era. This fish was thought to have gone extinct 66 million years ago.

Coelacanth Discovery

It became famous when it was seen at a fishing dock in 1938. Research revealed it was indeed the pre-historic species. After that, it was spotted many times in deep oceans. Studies show that Coelacanths like dark waters of the deep ocean that are not friendly to humans. Today, they are found near the East Coast of Africa and Indonesia.

Hiding from Sight

Coelacanths are night feeders. They slowly drift in the deep sea, eating smaller fish that swim by. Fishermen avoid catching this fish. Though large, they are not likeable by humans. They have a high content of oil, urea and wax compounds not friendly to the human stomach. So, if fishermen accidently catch a Coelacanth it will be released back in to the sea or sold to a scientist or naturalist interested in studying them.

Living fossils

Surprisingly, living Coelacanths look very much like their ancient fossils preserved in museums. Color, size and shape of the body shows no changes. Naturalists questioned how this fish escaped evolving for millions of years. It was a mystery that puzzled many people.

Evidence of Evolution

Long research shows Coelacanths evolved in many ways to adapt and survive. Evolutionary features are not immediately seen. Anatomy shows ancient Coelacanths used lungs to breath. Today, they have gills for breathing. In modern Coelacanths, lungs are replaced by a fatty organ for bouyancy that helps them survive in deep waters. DNA mappings show evolutionary changes in the DNA structure of Coelacanths. Genome sequencing shows Coelacanths are still evolving.

Evolution is not always visible outside. It can happen inside the body and within cells. All life on Earth continues to evolve and adapt. There are no exceptions to this.