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First find in South Africa
Failing to find a description of the creature in any of her books, she attempted to contact her friend, Professor James Leonard Brierley Smith, but he was away for Christmas. Unable to preserve the fish, she reluctantly sent it to a taxidermist. When Smith returned, he immediately recognized it as a coelacanth, known only from fossils. Smith named the fish Latimeria chalumnae in honor of Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer and the waters in which it was found. The two discoverers received immediate recognition, and the fish became known as a "living fossil." The 1938 coelacanth is still on display in the East London, South Africa, museum.
However, as the specimen had been stuffed, the gills and skeleton were not available for examination, and some doubt therefore remained as to whether it was truly the same species. Smith began a hunt for a second specimen that would take more than a decade.
The second specimen, found in 1952 by Comorian fisherman Ahamadi Abdallah, was described as a different species, first as 'Malania hunti' and later as Malania anjounae, after Daniel François Malan, the South African Prime Minister who had dispatched an SAAF Dakota at the behest of Professor Smith to fetch the specimen. It was later discovered that the lack of a first dorsal fin, at first thought to be significant, was caused by an injury early in the specimen's life. Ironically, Malan was a staunch creationist; when he was first shown the primitive creature, he exclaimed, with a twinkle, "My, it is ugly. Do you mean to say we once looked like that?" The specimen retrieved by Smith is on display at the SAIAB in Grahamstown, South Africa where he worked.
The Comorians are now aware of the significance of the endangered species, and have established a program to return accidentally-caught coelacanth to deep water.
As for Smith, who died in 1968, his account of the coelacanth story appeared in the book Old Fourlegs, first published in 1956. His book Sea Fishes of the Indian Ocean, illustrated and co-authored by his wife Margaret, remains the standard ichthyological reference for the region.
In 1988, National Geographic photographer Hans Fricke was the first to photograph the species in its natural habitat, 180metres (590ft) off Grande Comore's west coast.
Second species in Indonesia
On September 18, 1997, Arnaz and Mark Erdmann, traveling in Indonesia on their honeymoon, saw a strange fish enter the market at Manado Tua, on the island of Sulawesi. Mark thought it was a gombessa (Comoros coelacanth), although it was brown, not blue. An expert noticed their pictures on the Internet and realized its significance. Subsequently, the Erdmanns contacted local fishermen and asked for any future catches of the fish to be brought to them. A second Indonesian specimen, 1.2 m in length and weighing 29 kg., was captured alive on July 30, 1998. It lived for six hours, allowing scientists to photographically document its coloration, fin movements and general behavior. The specimen was preserved and donated to the Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense (MZB), part of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).
DNA testing revealed that this specimen differed genetically from the Comorian population. Superficially, the Indonesian coelacanth, locally called raja laut ("King of the Sea"), appears to be the same as those found in the Comoros except that the background coloration of the skin is brownish-gray rather than bluish. This fish was described in a 1999 issue of Environmental Biology of Fishes by Pouyaud et al. It was given the scientific name Latimeria menadoensis. A molecular study estimated the divergence time between the two coelacanth species to be 40–30 mya.
On May 19, 2007, Justinus Lahama, an Indonesian fisherman, caught a 1.3-metre-long, 50kg/110 pound coelacanth off the coast near Manado, on northern Sulawesi Island near Bunaken National Marine Park. After spending 30 minutes out of water, the fish, still alive, was placed in a netted pool in front of a restaurant at the edge of the sea. It survived for 17 hours. Coelacanths, closely related to lungfish, usually live at depths of 200-1,000 metres. The fish was filmed by local authorities swimming in the metre-deep pool, then frozen after it died. AFP claim French, Japanese and Indonesian scientists working with the French Institute for Development and Research carried out a necropsy on the coelacanth with genetic analysis to follow. The local university is now studying the carcass.
St. Lucia Marine Protected Area in South Africa
In South Africa, the search continued on and off over the years. 46-year-old diver Riaan Bouwer lost his life searching for coelacanths in June 1998.
On the 28th of October 2000, just south of the Mozambique border in Sodwana Bay in the St. Lucia Marine Protected Area, three deep-water divers, Pieter Venter, Peter Timm, and Etienne le Roux, made a dive to 104 metres and unexpectedly spotted a coelacanth.
Calling themselves "SA Coelacanth Expedition 2000", the group returned with photographic equipment and several additional members. On the 27th of November, after an unsuccessful initial dive the previous day, four members of the group, Pieter Venter, Gilbert Gunn, Christo Serfontein, and Dennis Harding, found three coelacanths. The largest was between 1.5 and 1.8 metres in length; the other two were from 1 to 1.2 metres. The fish swam head-down and appeared to be feeding from the cavern ledges. The group returned with video footage and photographs of the coelacanths.
During the dive, however, Serfontein lost consciousness, and 34-year-old Dennis Harding rose to the surface with him in an uncontrolled ascent. Harding complained of neck pains and died from a cerebral embolism while on the boat. Serfontein recovered after being taken underwater for decompression sickness treatment.
In March–April of 2002, the Jago Submersible and Fricke Dive Team descended into the depths off Sodwana and observed fifteen coelacanths. A dart probe was used to collect tissue samples.
The shallowest recorded sighting of a coelacanth is at a depth of 58 m off the coast of Sodwana Bay by Christo Vanjaarsveld.
Coelacanths have been caught off the coast of Tanzania since 2004. Two coelacanths were initially reported captured in Kigombe, a small village off the edge of the Indian Ocean in August 2004. A spate of 19 more specimens of these extremely rare fishes weighing between 25 kg. to 80 kg. were reported netted in the space of the next 5 months, with another specimen captured in January 2005. A coelacanth weighing as much as 110 kg. was reported by the Observer newspaper in 2006. Officials of the Tanga Coastal Zone Conservation and Development Programme, which has a long-term strategy for protecting the species, see a connection with the timing of the captures with trawling - especially by Japanese vessels - near the coelacanth's habitat, as within a couple of days of trawlers casting their nets coelacanths have turned up in shallow-water fishing nets intended for sharks. The sudden appearance of the coelacanth off Tanzania that has raised real worries about its future due to damage done to the coelacanth population by the effects of indiscriminate trawling methods and habitat damage.
Hassan Kolombo, a programme co-ordinator, said. "Once we do not have trawlers, we don't get the coelacanths, it's as simple as that." His colleague, Solomon Makoloweka, said they had been pressuring the Tanzanian government to limit trawlers' activities. He said: "I suppose we should be grateful to these trawlers, because they have revealed this amazing and unique fish population. But we are concerned they could destroy these precious things. We want the government to limit their activity and to help fund a proper research program so that we can learn more about the coelacanths and protect them."
Timeline of discoveries
1938 (December 23) Discovery of the first modern coelacanth 30kilometers SW of East London, South Africa.
1952 (December 21) Second specimen identified in the Comoros. Since then more than 200 have been caught around the islands.
1988 First photographs of coelacanths in their natural habitat, by Hans Fricke off Grande Comore.
1991 First coelacanth identified near Mozambique, 24kilometers offshore NE of Quelimane.
1995 First recorded coelacanth on Madagascar, 30kilometers S of Tuléar.
1997 (September 18) New species of coelacanth found in Indonesia.
2000 A group found by divers off Sodwana Bay, South Africa.
2001 A group found off the coast of Kenya.
2003 First coelacanth caught by fisherman in Tanzania. Within the year, 22 were caught in total.
2004 Canadian researcher William Sommers captured the largest recorded specimen of coelacanth off the coast of Madagascar.
2007 (May 19) Indonesian fisherman Justinus Lahama caught a 1.31meter (4.30ft) long, 51kilogram (112lb) coelacanth off Sulawesi Island, near Bunaken National Marine Park, that survived for 17 hours in a quarantined pool.
2007 (July 15) Two fishermen from Zanzibar caught a coelacanth measuring 1.34meters (4.40ft), and weighing 27kilograms (60lb). The fish was caught off the north tip of the island, off the coast of Tanzania.
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|Anonymous||omg||0||Sep 25 2012, 2:48 PM EDT by Anonymous|
Thread started: Sep 25 2012, 2:48 PM EDT Watch
i found a rock in my back yard once, it had a fish on it that looked like that one.
the fish on the rock was blue, purple, and had green and yellow eyes. it was really pretty
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