Coelacanth in danger of extinction

Guardian (via BoingBoing):

The appearance of these creatures off the Tanzanian coast is a dramatic and as yet unfinished chapter in the extraordinary story of the coelacanth, an ancient fish that was ‘rediscovered’. The coelacanth evolved 400 million years ago – by contrast Homo sapiens has been around for less than 200,000 years – and was believed to have gone the way of the dinosaurs until one was caught off the coast of South Africa in 1938.

The fish has a remarkable physiology – it has no backbone, but an oil-filled ‘notochord’ and four limb-like appendages, with stubby fins. It has a double tail and gives birth to as many as 26 young at one time. It is believed to gestate for 14 months and may live for more than 80 years. The young develop inside the mother, attached to the outside of a huge yolk-filled egg of about 100mm (3.9in) in diameter.

The world waited another 14 years before the second coelacanth was ‘discovered’ in the Comoros, off the East African coast. Then several more were found and it was photographed for the first time in its natural habitat. But it is the appearance of the coelacanth off Tanzania that has raised real worries about its future.

We thought it went extinct 65 million years ago, only to discover that this 400 million year old species in fact survived the meteorite that killed the dinosaurs… so I guess it’s up to mankind to finish the job nature couldn’t pull off, and drive this thing to extinction once and for all. Luckily, it looks like we’re up to the task.

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