Know about great white-shark-sized ancient fish Coelacanth

Recently, an ancient enormous Coelacanth, family of fishes have been discovered accidentally by Palaeontologists and it grew as big as a great white shark. Let us read more about Coelacanth.
Created On: Feb 22, 2021 23:39 IST
Modified On: Feb 22, 2021 23:46 IST
What is Coelacanth?
What is Coelacanth?

Paleontologists from the University of Portsmouth recently discovered by accident a great white-shark-sized ancient fish from a fossilized lung and it belongs to the mysterious coelacanth family of fishes. 
Basically, the coelacanth is a giant fish regarded as an iconic example of a "living fossil". Paleontologists claimed that the discovered fossils of the coelacanth, a giant fish have been even around before the dinosaurs. It is believed that the fossil is 66 million years old belonging to the Cretaceous era.

About the discovery

A paleontologist from the University’s School of the Environment, Geography, and Geosciences, David Martill was invited by a private collector in London to identify a large bone and found that there was something unique about the bone. It consists of several thin bone plates instead of a single structure.

He said that "The thin bony plates were arranged like a barrel, but with the staves going round instead of from top to bottom. Only one animal has such a structure and that is the coelacanth. We had found a bony lung of this remarkable and bizarre-looking fish.”

Let us tell you that a Brazillian paleontologist Paulo Brito who studied coelacanths for more than 20 years and is an expert on their lungs was also surprised about the size of the new specimen. He said that according to the size of its lungs the fish could have been five metres long, much larger than the 2m-long coelacanths that still swim in the seas.

In a block of phosphate, the fossil has been embedded which is backed with plaster and covered in a coating of lacquer which had caused the bones to turn brown. It was found next to a pterodactyl and this helped in calculating the age of the fossil. 

He further stated that "We only had a single, albeit massive lung. So our conclusions required some quite complex calculations. It was astonishing to deduce that this particular fish was enormous — quite a bit longer than the length of a stand-up paddleboard and likely the largest coelacanth ever discovered.”

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About Coelacanths

Scientific name: Latimeria
Type: Fish
Diet: Carnivore
Group Name: School
Average life span in the wild: Up to 60 years
Size: around 6.5 feet
Weight: approx 198 pounds

Two species of coelacanths have been known namely one that lives near the ComorosIsland off the east coast of Africa and the other found in the waters off Sulawesi, Indonesia. 

They are elusive, deep-sea creatures and lives in depths up to 2,300 feet below the surface. They can be huge and may reach 6.5 feet or more and weighs around 198 pounds. As per scientists, they can live up to 60 years or more.

According to downtoearth.org coelacanths first evolved 400 million years ago that is 200 million years before the first dinosaurs. It is believed that it had long been extinct, but in 1938, a living coelacanth was found off South Africa. A debate has been started that how this lobe-finned fish fits into the evolution of land animals. 

The coelacanth fossil has now been returned to Morocco where it will be added to the collections in the Department of Geology at Hassan II University of Casablanca. The research was published in Cretaceous Research.

Characteristics of Coelacanths 

One of the most striking features of Coelacanth or this "living fossil" is its paired lobe fins that extend away from its body like legs and move in an alternating pattern like a trotting horse. 

It has a hinged joint in the skull which allows the fish to widen its mouth for large prey.

It also consists of an oil-filled tube known as a notochord which serves as a backbone.

It also has thick scales common only to extinct fish.

It has an electrosensory rostral organ in its snout which is used to detect prey.

So, now you may have come to know about great white-shark-sized ancient fish which is discovered by accident from fossilized lung and belongs to the mysterious coelacanth family of fishes.

Source: DTE, nationalgeographic.com

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