Monday, May 21, 2007

A Coelacanth In The Pool

An Indonesian fisherman caught a “living dinosaur” in the last few days: a coelacanth.


The four-foot long, 110-pound fish was thought extinct for 65 million years until a live one was caught off South Africa in 1938. Since then more have been caught and studied, even alive, but it is still exceedingly rare, since this species lives only in very cold, very deep water.

The fisherman, Justinus Lahama, put the fish in a quarantined pool, where it lived for another 17 hours, which a marine biologist (named Lucky) said was a very long time considering the conditions were so different from its native habitat.

It’s not every day you get to see a living fossil. Scratch that . . . you actually get to see living fossils every day. No, I'm not talking about your mother-in-law. Most insects, for instance, have changed very little in hundreds of millions of years. Same is true for some plant species, like gingko trees (at least 170 million years old), or reptiles, like crocodiles (about 220 million years). So let me re-state. It’s not every day you get to see a living fossil that was thought to be extinct.

Coelacanths have been found in this area of Indonesia before (off Sulawesi). HERE is a video of a live coelacanth in its watery environment, filmed by some Japanese researchers (and narrated in Japanese). HERE is an article about that expedition, and HERE is an article about another Indonesian coelacanth that was captured.

Now, the article about the fisherman didn’t say what kind of “quarantined pool” it was, but I would like to think it was his swimming pool. I can see his wife heading out for a few quick laps, then running back in the house, screaming.

Wife: “There’s a giant fish in the pool!”

Fisherman: “Oh, yeah, I forgot to tell you, Honey. It’s a rare living fossil. Ain’t it a beaut?”

Wife: “That’s it, Justinus! It’s not enough that I put up with washing your slimy fisherman clothes all the time and have to make love to someone who smells like tuna guts, but now you’ve gone and put a four-foot carnivorous dinosaur in my pool to eat me! I’m leaving! Put that on your hook and fish with it!”

On a side note, I wonder what coelacanth tastes like. Would it be good in sushi?

Image from Reuters, via USAToday online.

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