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The coelacanth

Coelacanth Fact file

Name: Coelacanth (see-lah-kanth)
Status: Once thought to be extinct

Habitat: Deep water caves around islands off the coasts of Africa and Indonesia.

Description: The coelacanth is a bony fish with a lobed tail and lobed fins that gives birth to live young. It is usually a bright blue, but this colour is lost when the fish is caught. You can see a model of the coelacanth on display in the Museum.

What is the story of the coelacanth?
For a very long time people thought that the coelacanth was extinct because many coelacanth fossils were found, but no live fish. The fossils showed that the coelacanth had been around over 400 million years ago - long before the dinosaurs had evolved. However, in 1938 a live coelacanth was caught off the south-east coast of Africa! Since then it has been caught regularly around the Comoros Islands near Africa, and has also been found in Indonesia.
The coelacanth is a shy fish that lives in deep water and is not usually disturbed by regular fishing. But now, as people catch the coelacanth more frequently, there is a concern that it may be endangered. It would be a shame to lose something we have only just re-discovered.

Image bank - click on the pictures for more information.

Coelacanth model Coelacanth model
Map of the Comoros Coelacanth fossil

Find out more:
Find out more about the first coelacanth caught in 1938
Find out more about coelacanths
Dinofish ?!?!
Find out more about Comoros
Print out your own coelacanth image page (PDF, 174Kb)

Find out about the extinct and endangered animals in the Museum.

Hilda the hippo Dodo
Blue whale
Golden toad
Giant panda
Passenger pigeon
Schaus' swallowtail

Go to the Homepage to find out about hippos and the causes of extinction.