Coelacanth (Encyclopedia of Science)
A coelacanth (pronounced SEE-luh-kanth) is a large, primitive fish found in the Indian Ocean. Described as a "living fossil" and once thought to be extinct, this deep-sea fish is believed to form one of the "missing links" in the evolution from fish to land animals.
An "extinct" discovery
Until December 1938, the coelacanth was known only by the fossil record that suggested it had lived as long as 350 million years ago in what is called the Devonian period, and that it probably went extinct some 70 million years ago. It was identified scientifically as part of the extinct sub-class of Crossopterygii (pronounced kross-op-teh-RIH-jee), which means a "lobe-finned fish." Until 1938, most scientists believed the coelacanth had disappeared along with the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous (pronounced kree-TAY-shus) period. However, during that year, fisherman off the eastern coast of South Africa caught a 5-foot (1.5-meter) fish with deep-blue scales and bulging blue eyes that was strange enough to make them bring it to a local museum. The curator, Courtney Latimer, could not identify it, but knew that it was important enough to contact J. L. B. Smith, a leading South African ichthyologist (pronounced ik-thee-OL-low-jist), a zoologist who specializes in fishes. Smith then pronounced the fish to be a coelacanth, and this "living fossil" became the zoological find...
(The entire section is 794 words.)
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