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‘Extinct’ Fossil Fish Thought To Have Lived 420 Million Year Ago Found Alive

by : Niamh Shackleton on : 15 May 2021 11:15
'Extinct' Fossil Fish Thought To Have Lived 420 Million Year Ago Found AliveGetty Images

A fossil fish predating dinosaurs has been found alive, despite scientists previously believing that it was extinct. 

The fish, named the coelacanth, was accidentally discovered by a group of South African shark hunters in the West Indian Ocean off the coast of Madagascar.

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Coelacanths were first resurfaced from extinction in 1938 and, in the wake of them being found alive and well again, marine scientists are calling for reinforcement of conservation measures to protect the fish that dates back 420 million years.

Upon the fish being found again 1938, marine biologists were apparently ‘agog’, according to Mongabay News, and said that the ‘four-legged, living fossil fish’ had returned from the dead.

Extinct fish South Africa GettyGetty

Since they resurfaced, more of the fish have been caught off the coastlines of South Africa, Tanzania, and the Comoros Islands, the non-profit environmental conservation platform reports.

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It’s believed the discovery of coelacanths comes in the wake of the ongoing increased demand for shark fins and oil. This has led to fishers having to delve their gill nets further into the ocean near to where the formerly-extinct fish gathers.

Coelacanths typically gather around 328 to 492 feet below the water’s surface, Newsweek reports.

While deep water fishing has helped rediscover the fish, marine biologists have expressed concerns that gill nets pose a threat to coelacanths.

Extinct fish in south africa gettyGetty
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Andrew Cooke, lead author of a recent study published in the South African Journal of Science, said:

When we looked into this further, we were astounded [by the numbers caught]… even though there has been no proactive process in Madagascar to monitor or conserve coelacanths.

However, he also acknowledged that handline fishing on the steep volcanic slopes of Comoros archipelago ‘provided an important source of museum specimens and was the main focus of coelacanth research for almost 40 years.’

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Niamh Shackleton

Niamh Shackleton is a pint sized person and journalist at UNILAD. After studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Salford, she did a year at Caters News Agency as a features writer in Birmingham before deciding that Manchester is (arguably) one of the best places in the world, and therefore moved back up north. She's also UNILAD's unofficial crazy animal lady.

Topics: Animals, extinct, fish, Now

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Mongabay News and 1 other
  1. Mongabay News

    Ghost fish: after 420 million years in the deeps, modern gillnets from shark fin trade drag coelacanths into the light

  2. Newsweek

    'Extinct Fossil Fish' Dating Back 420 Million Years Found Alive in Madagascar