December 23, 1938: Dinosaur Fish Found!

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A Brief History

On December 23, 1938, a commercial fisherman pulled in a “living fossil” in his net off the coast of Africa, a creature believed to be extinct since the time of the dinosaurs!

Digging Deeper

Digging deeper, we find the first known discovery of the Coelacanth, a prehistoric fish believed to be a link between fish and 4 legged animals and the second oldest living species of common animals!

Previously thought to exist from 360 million to perhaps 60 million years ago, the Coelacanth is a primitive looking fish, with pectoral and pelvic fins located at the ends of lobes that look like the beginning of limbs, somewhat like the lungfish of today.  They are also heavily armored with tough scales and have a notochord instead of a backbone, like other prehistoric type fish such as sharks and sturgeons.  They also possess a lung-like organ, and have a braincase 98.5% filled with fat!  Coelacanths reach as much as 6 feet in length and can weigh over 100 pounds.

Coelacanths are found in deep water or hiding in caves during the day, coming out at night into shallower water to feed on live prey.  After the initial discovery, more specimens of the same apparent species have been found, and in 1998 a second species was caught in the area of Indonesia.  Along with these 2 living species, another 80 extinct species once swam the seas.  The 2 species we have today are considered threatened, and although not eaten by people (they taste terrible) they are accidentally caught by trawling nets.

Along with other fantastic ocean creatures recently discovered, such as the Mega-Mouth Shark and the Colossal Squid, the Coelacanth makes us wonder what other spectacular or thought to be extinct creatures wait to be found!

Question for students (and subscribers): Have you ever seen a Mega-Mouth Shark, a Colossal Squid, or a Coelacanth?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information on the “dinosaur fish”, please read…

Thomson, Keith.  Living Fossil: The Story of the Coelacanth.  W. W. Norton & Company, 1992.

Walker, Sally M.  Fossil Fish Found Alive: Discovering the Coelacanth (Carolrhoda Photo Books).  Carolrhoda Books, 2002.

Weinberg, Samantha.  A Fish Caught in Time: The Search for the Coelacanth.  Harper Perennial, 2001.

And to collect your own, well, sort of, see…

Safari Ltd Wild Safari Dinosaurs Coelacanth.  Safari Ltd.


About Author

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.