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Incredible New Photographs of Live Coelacanths

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  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Friday August 24, 2012 @06:41PM (#41116413) Homepage
    Human beings, however, might enjoy simple ape-like wonderment gazing at some modern high quality images of a fish-o-saurus that's said "Fuck you, that's why" to evolution for 65 million years.
  • Fascinating Animals (Score:5, Interesting)

    by O('_')O_Bush (1162487) on Friday August 24, 2012 @06:56PM (#41116591)
    I've always wondered how Coelacanth survived for so long. Everything about it is primitive. It has a slow metabolism (or at least the ability to make it slow) and more or less rides the currents to its feeding grounds and back. Very different from the high energy, small, modern fish.

    As a species, it has basically been in a evolutionary standstill for 400 million years, and current populations have low genetic diversity (which may be a hint as to why).

    My best guess is that some mechanism to not mutate much, flesh that isn't good food for many animals (gives humans upset tummies), a robust way of obtaining food (eating anything), and good energy conservation have probably contributed to its durability as a species. But I would think that lots of species have had these attributes, long ago.

    It's habits and characteristics are remarkably similar to another living fossil, the Nautilus.
  • by Bowling Moses (591924) on Friday August 24, 2012 @08:12PM (#41117635) Journal
    Of course biologists do: coelacanths (and insects, and everything else) are evolving. Over the 360 million years coelacanths have been around there have been countless new mutations and new environmental pressures that have shaped the coelacanths. We know of around a hundred coelacanth species that are grouped into not only multiple genera, but multiple families which we can identify from changes in skeletal structure and which we can use as index fossils. They hit upon a successful basic body form a long time ago but they've been evolving the whole time. The only way a species can't evolve is if it goes extinct.
  • by Martin Blank (154261) on Friday August 24, 2012 @10:14PM (#41118827) Journal

    I think I remember reading that when the coelocanth was formally rediscovered, some of the local fishermen seemed surprised. They had occasionally dredged them up in their nets, but always tossed them overboard because they tasted so bad. This site [io9.com] suggests that its oily flesh also acts as a powerful laxative.

    Probably best to leave them in the water.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 25, 2012 @08:31AM (#41121505)

    For most of these "living fossils", when you get into the details you discover that they *have* changed, just not very much. The fossil examples look quite similar in superficial ways but are different enough in anatomy that it is clear they are different species. For example, there are about 6 species of modern Nautilus, and while there are plenty of older nautiloids going back hundreds of millions of years, all of the modern species have relatively recent origins and are distinct from the much more ancient ones. The same is true for the modern coelacanth. The ancient specimens are certainly recognizable as coelacanths with anatomy similar to today, but go back far enough and there are differences, and eventually you get to a time when there are coelacanth-like creatures that are fairly different.

    "Living fossils" are not creatures that have not changed, they are creatures that haven't changed much, at least in terms of their morphology. They are not in a "standstill", but are changing relatively slowly. This could be because their anatomy works just fine for the niche they have adopted, so selection acts to stabilize it.

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