Coelacanths are living fossils. The whole group was thought to be extinct until a specimen was caught in 1938. There are two living species: the coelacanth and the Sulawesi coelacanth. They inhabit deep water, so are rarely seen and difficult to film.
Scientific name: Latimeria
A coelacanth links land dwellers with their ocean heritage.
David Attenborough goes to the Madagascar Research Institute's laboratory to see its most famous fish - the coelacanth. Until 1938 it was believed to be extinct. The coelacanth, or a fish very like it, would have been the ancestor of all amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. This clip was first broadcast in 1961.
A rare coelacanth is caught on camera.
It is unusual for a coelacanth to be caught alive, but while the BBC were in the Comoros one was landed, so it was returned to the sea and filmed. This remarkable, deep water fish is extremely rare and can tell us a lot about the evolution of life from the sea to land. This is the first and only time one has been filmed by the BBC to date.
The following habitats are found across the Coelacanths distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.
Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.
Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web
Discover the other animals and plants that lived during the following geological time periods.
Latimeria is a rare genus of fish that includes two extant species: West Indian Ocean coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) and the Indonesian coelacanth (Latimeria menadoensis). They follow the oldest known living lineage of Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish and tetrapods), which means they are more closely related to lungfish, reptiles and mammals than to the common ray-finned fishes. They are found along the coastlines of the Indian Ocean and Indonesia. Since there are only two species of coelacanth and both are threatened, it is the most endangered genus of animals in the world. The West Indian Ocean coelacanth is a critically endangered species.
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