The (fossil) animal of the day

© Laurent Ballesta


Name : Coelacanth is an order of fishes belonging to the sarcopterygians containing species that have emerged from the water. There are many fossils of this order and two known living species of the genus Latimeria.

Habitat : This fish lives in the depths, in underwater caves. It is found in very specific areas along the coasts of East Africa and the Celebes Sea in the Pacific.

Size : 1.20 to 1.80m long with a weight of 20 to 90 kg or more!

Way of life : A coelacanth can live between 25 and 48 years! The coelacanth swims slowly (in accordance with its very slow metabolism) at great depths (about 150 m), it uses its pectoral fins with skill to move or to seize prey. It is a nocturnal carnivorous hunter that feeds on invertebrates, squid and fish. It is ovoviviparous, i.e. the young are already formed when they are born.


The Coelacanths appeared in the Devonian, that is, 410 million years ago. Scientists have long thought it was extinct, but in 1938, a specimen was caught on the East African coast. Other settlements were identified in Indonesia near the island of Celebes. You could say that this fish resurfaced from the past, indeed there has been very little morphological change in 350 million years.

In addition, this fish has a gas pocket with thick walls which is the remnant of an ancestral lung ! Quite astonishing for a fish living at a depth of 150 m you might say, but their primary lungs are the remnants from their ancestor that lived near the surface of the water. We consider the lobe-finned fish, of which it is a part, as the possible ancestors of the first four-legged land animals.

Written by Gabrielle OUROUS
Translated by Vinoth CHELLIAH

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