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.
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.