1938 Coelacanth

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, J. L. B. Smith ichthyology Coelacanth


A beautiful fish

Living fossil

Frustrated by the lack of soft tissues in Courtenay-Latimer’s taxidermist-preserved coelancanth, Smith was instrumental in organizing a search for a second specimen of the species fourteen years later. The second living species was found in Indonesia in 1998.

It turned out the coelancanth is not the closest known relative of the amphibious tetrapods, the first animals that came up onto land.

Louis Agassiz chose the scientific name for this species, Cœlacanthus, based on its hollow caudal fin rays.

“The coelacanth braincase is 98.5% filled with fat; only 1.5% of the braincase contains brain tissue.”

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