Coelacanth – Latimeria chalumnae
Biologists call the coelacanth a “living fossil”. This fish is the only living member of an order that was abundant 80,000,000 to 370,000,000 years ago.
The coelacanth grows to a length of 1.5 meters and can weigh up to 68 kilograms. It feeds on lantern fish, cuttlefish, and other reef fish.
A female coelacanth does not lay eggs, but gives birth to fully formed young after a gestation period of over 12 months. The female keeps the eggs inside her body to protect them. It gives birth to 5-26 offspring at a time. Young coelacanths probably live in caves and hunt at night.
These fish may live up to 80 years. They have been found in the waters off the coasts of South Africa, Mozambique, and Comoros. The coelacanth was once thought to be extinct.
Coelacanths inhabit caves at depths between 122 and 305 meters.
In 1938, an unusual fish was caught by fishermen off the eastern coast of South Africa. British amateur ichthyologist James L. B. Smith identified it as a coelacanth. In 1952, biologists found coelacanths living and breeding off Comoros.
Its muscular fins are able to move over 180°, allowing the fish to swim forwards, backwards, and even upside down.
The bluish body of the coelacanth is covered with thick scales. Its jaws are strong. It can sense an electric field through an electro receptive organ in its snout.
The coelacanths spend the day in large groups in underwater caves. At night, all the fish move one by one closer to the surface.
The coelacanth is protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).