West Indian Ocean coelacanth is a fish species found on the southeastern coast of Africa. They generally live at a depth of 100 to 800 meters, although a living specimen has been observed at a depth of a mere 54 meters (Fraser et al., 2020). This fact makes them relatively shallow by the standards of the West Indian Ocean (Fraser et al., 2020). Male coelacanths rarely exceed 150 cm and are always below 100 kilograms (Fraser et al., 2020). On the other hand, females are both lengthier, with the largest known specimen reaching 187 cm, and heavier, often weighing around 100 kilograms (Fraser et al., 2020). West Indian Ocean coelacanths are piscivores – that is, carnivores who only eat fish – and ovoviviparous, meaning they retain their eggs internally until their young hatch.
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Based on the description above, the coelacanth may seem like a relatively ordinary fish. However, such an impression would be false because Latimeria Chalumnae is one of the most exceptional fish species currently in existence. Its uniqueness stems from the fact that it belongs to the clade of sacrcopterygii or lobe-finned fish. Their fins are not merely skin and bone, as with the ray-finned fish, but fleshy extensions of the body with muscle tissue, which supposedly became full-fledged extremities when some sacrcopterygii evolved into tetrapods. Scientists have thought lobe-finned fish to be extinct for a long time, as they were only able to find fossilized remains. It was a sensation when one was caught and identified in 1938 near East London, South Africa, named after Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer of the East London museum who preserved the specimen for science (Fraser et al., 2020). As one can see, Latimeria Chalumnae is indeed an exceptional organism – a living fossil and a fish that is closer to tetrapods, including humans, rather than to the ray-finned fish, from an evolutionary standpoint.
Fraser, M. D., Henderson, B. A. S., Carstens, P. B., Fraser, A. D., Henderson, B. S., Dukes, M. D., & Bruton, M. N. (2020). Live coelacanth discovered off the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, South Africa. South African Journal of Science, 116(3/4). Web.