Cracking the coelacanth code: Living version of HMNS fossil has genome sequenced


May 30, 2013
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The coelacanth — a “living fossil” believed to have hardly changed over the last 300 million years — has finally had its genome sequenced by European researchers.

courtesy of wiki media
The deep-sea fish was the inspiration for the famous 1954 film Creature from the Black Lagoon and is well-represented here at HMNS, where we have three examples on display: a Devonian fossil, a Cretaceous specimen and a model like the one sequenced.

Researchers sorted through nearly 3 billion DNA bases to conclude that the coelacanth’s four fleshy fins were likely the early predecessors of limbs.

Although the coealcanth is related to early tetrapods — the first creatures to make the transition from the ocean to land — a comparison of the coelacanth genome with the DNA profiles of lungfish and other modern land-based animals led scientists to conclude that lungfish were the closer relative.

Coelacanths have been notoriously difficult to study, having been assumed extinct until an African fisherman caught the living fossil in 1938. Since then, only a few hundred specimens have been found.

Continue the investigation yourself at our Morian Hall of Paleontology, and see why this mysterious fish has kept researchers rapt for so long.

Caroline
Authored By Caroline Gallay

Caroline was the Digital Media Editor at HMNS from 2012 to 2013. She was responsible for telling the Museum’s story online. You could find Caroline on the site profiling characters around the museum and making sure you knew what the what was going on around this crazy/awesome place.

One response to “Cracking the coelacanth code: Living version of HMNS fossil has genome sequenced”

  1. John Hill says:

    I am so sick of the perpetual distortion and falsehood commonly spouted about “The Coelacanth.”
    The genus discovered in 1938 is Latimeria, which is _unknown_ as a fossil. At most it is estimated to risen only 4 million years ago. There are two known living species of Latimeria. Both are deep-sea fish which generally hover in caves but have never been seen to “walk” with their fins on any surface.

    “Coelacanths” are a group of bony fish going back over 360 million years. None of them spanned the ages from then to now. There are many body types in the group and they apparently inhabited various environments with differing lifestyles. Every Coelacanth fossil specie is at least 65 million years extinct.

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