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COELACANTH - LATIMERIA CHALUMNAE - "THE LIVING FOSSIL"
: Sarcopterygii ,
Fossils of the coelacanth have been found to date back 350 million years ago (Paleozoic Era)
Live coelacanth found off of South Africa in 1938
6.5 feet long
80 kg in weight
Majority are brown in color
Small heart and brain, majority of respective cavities are filled with protective fat
Many large fins, most important include pectoral, anal, and pelvic (motion)
Contains bones that relate to feet (Possible they once walked)
: Opportunistic feeders, eat almost anything nearby
Possess hinges behind jaws that can be opened to ingest large prey
Prey usually consists of squid, eels, small sharks, and other passing animals that live at deeper ocean levels
Give birth to live offspring (Pups)
Known Habitat Locations
Can give birth to 5-25 pups at a time
13 month gestation time
Pups are fully formed when born and capable of surviving
Coelacanths are believed to be unable to reproduce until 20 years of age
Known to live around 60 years in natural habitat
Have been found off of South Africa, Madagascar, and in the Indian Ocean
Known to live in the deep sea (use highly specialized eyes to navigate the lightless waters)
Sprawled over the entire world when the population was greater (Paleozoic Era, Early Cretaceous Period)
Relatively migratory (stay in same general oceanic location for entire life)
No known natural predators
The coelacanth has been considered extinct since the Cretaceous Period (65 million years ago). As of late, fishermen and scientists have discovered single organism examples living, and thriving, off the coasts of Africa, Madagascar, and Indonesia. The extended period of time between the "extinction" of the coelacanth 65 million years ago and today has caused extreme population loss. Their population is believed to stand at under 500 coelacanths. Evolution and habitat change brought in new surroundings and new predators/prey that could have caused the population loss. From what we know, the population today is small, and shrinking. The few specimens that have actually been found in the world led scientists to place this organism on the endangered species list.
Specimen Caught by Fisherman
The population of the coelacanth is falling. Females of the species are more vulnerable to extinction than males and that does not help the falling population.
The Coelacanth Conservation Council, founded in 1987 in Moroni, Comoros, strives to protect the dwindling population of the coelacanth.
Many coelacanths have been caught by fishermen in Tanzania and continue to be trapped in fishing nets and trawlers. The Tanga Coastal Zone Conservation and Development Programme was created in 1994 to help protect the oceanic wildlife and focus on the re-emergence of the coelacanth. This program involves the use of non-governmental funding and human resource use to protect the few known coelacanths living in the area.
Citizens that do not directly associate with the coelacanth cannot do much to help save it. The only logical, indirect way to help save the population of coelacanths around the world is to donate monetary assistance to coelacanth foundations.
(Michael N. Burton) (Springer Link)
(Sea and Sky)
(Peter Tyson) (Nova)
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