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.
Find out about the extinct and endangered animals in the Museum.
Go to the Homepage to find out about hippos and the causes of extinction.