By OWEN ARNOT, age 9
The coelacanth (pronounced “see-la-kanth”) is a rare fish that is found near northern Sulawesi, Indonesia and in the western Indian Ocean. Scientists thought coelacanths went extinct 65 million years ago, until Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer discovered one alive in 1938. A second kind of coelacanth was found in 1999. The coelacanth’s scientific names are Latimeria chalumnae and Latimeria menadoensis, both named after Latimer.
Some scientists believe that coelacanths could be an evolutionary link between ancient fish and the first land-dwelling mammals. Their unique lobed fins share some characteristics with human limbs, earning it the nickname, “Old Four Legs.” Also, unlike other fish, they give birth to their offspring rather than laying eggs. Their population numbers are unknown, and scientists suspect that they are endangered.
Coelacanths live in temperate waters up to 2,300 feet below the water off rocky slopes of volcanic islands. They come in three different colors: yellow, brown and blue. The coelacanth grows up to 6.5 feet in length and can weigh nearly 200 pounds.
Scientists say that this “Living Fossil” has been around for nearly 400 million years, meaning that it was swimming in Earth’s oceans before the time of the dinosaurs.