Fossil coelacanth. Coelacanths are air-breathing fish closely related to rhipidistians & lungfish. They appeared during the Devonian period (395-345 million years ago) & became adapted to life in shallow, muddy lakes. Their strong, fleshy fins were used not only for swimming but also for crawling on land. Along with pulmonary respiration this allowed them to survive droughts, travel overland from one pool to another & search for food at the water's edge. Coelacanths were thought extinct until 1938, when a specimen was spotted in a haul of fish caught off the coast of South Africa. The species, Latimeria chalumnae, had long been known to local fishermen as kombessa.
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