Huge Fish, Once Believed Extinct, Isn’t the ‘Living Fossil’ Scientists Thought

Exposing the Big Game

George DvorskyYesterday 4:00PM293

A rare sighting of a live coelacanth, captured off the coast of South Africa in 2019.
A raresighting of a livecoelacanth, captured off the coastof South Africa in 2019.

An analysis of coelacanth DNA suggests itsgenome has experienced some significant changes in recent evolutionary history, potentially dispelling the popular image of these iconic fish as being “living fossils.”

The discovery of a live coelacanth (pronounced “see-lah-kanth”)off the coast of South Africa in 1938 was quite the shock, as these animals were believed to be extinct. The large fish were thereafter referred to as “living fossils” owing to their uncanny resemblance to near-identical species spotted in the fossil record.

New research published in Molecular Biology and Evolution presents evidence showing that at least one species of coelacanth, formally known asLatimeria chalumnae, is not the living fossil it’s presumed to be, having acquired dozens of new genes in the past 23 million years—a surprising finding, and a far cry…

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