SALLY BENSUSEN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY SALLY BENSUSEN / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Coelacanth. Illustration of a Coelacanth fish, Latimeria chalumnae. Related to Rhipidistians and lungfish, coelacanths were thought to be extinct until, in 1938, a specimen 1.5 metres long and weighing 52kg was caught off the coast of South Africa. The species had long been known to local fishermen as kombessa. The coelacanth survives as the only known living member of a class of lobe- finned fishes that flourished in the Mesozoic Era, 400-60 million years ago. It was initially thought that their strong fleshy fins were used for swimming and for crawling on land, and that these fish were a step in the evolution of land animals. Coelacanths, however, are unable to walk.
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