20 November 2009

What does a baby coelacanth look like?

Once considered extinct, very little is known about this fish, which is considered a living fossil. So it was exciting when Japanese marine researchers photographed and filmed for the first time, a juvenile coelacanth
A similar-sized juvenile was once discovered in the belly of a pregnant coelacanth. It is believed that their eggs hatch inside the female and the young fish are fully formed at the time of birth.

Thanks to Dr Tan Swee Hee for the heads up on this development.

Japanese researchers film rare baby fish 'fossil'
AFP Google News 18 Nov 09;
TOKYO — Japanese marine researchers said on Tuesday they had found and successfully filmed a young coelacanth -- a rare type of fish known as "a living fossil" -- in deep water off Indonesia.

The creature was found on October 6 at a depth of 161 metres (528 feet) in Manado Bay off Sulawesi Island, where the Indonesian coelacanth was first discovered, according to the researchers.

Video footage showed the 31.5 centimetre (12.6-inch) coelacanth, coloured blue with white spots, swimming slowly among rocks on the seabed for about 20 minutes.

"As far as we know, it was the first ever video image of a living juvenile coelacanth, which is still shrouded in mystery," said Masamitsu Iwata, a researcher at Aquamarine Fukushima in Iwaki, northeast of Tokyo.

Scientists hope the discovery will shed light on the habitat and breeding habits of coelacanths.

The researchers used a remotely operated, self-propelled vehicle to film the coelacanth, which appeared to be newly born, Iwata said.

A similar-sized juvenile was once discovered in the belly of a pregnant coelacanth. It is believed that their eggs hatch inside the female and the young fish are fully formed at the time of birth.

Coelacanths are commonly regarded as having evolved little from prehistoric times and were thought to be extinct until a living specimen was discovered in 1938 off the coast of southern Africa.


Aquarium snaps world's first photos of young coelacanth
Japan Times 18 Nov 09;
IWAKI, Fukushima Pref. (Kyodo) A team from an aquarium in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, has succeeded in capturing the world's first photographs of juvenile coelacanths, a fish regarded as a living fossil, off Indonesia's Sulawesi Island.

According to Aquamarine Fukushima, the fry were found Oct. 6 at a depth of 161 meters in Manado Bay off North Sulawesi Province, where the Indonesian coelacanth was first discovered more than a decade ago.

While little is known about the breeding habits of coelacanths, examination of captured specimens has shown that their eggs hatch inside the female and the young, known as pups, are born as fully formed juveniles.

The fry photographed by Aquamarine Fukushima were 31.5 cm long and appeared to be newborn.

The coelacanth has changed little since ancient times. It is believed to have originated during the Devonian period about 360 million years ago and was thought to have gone extinct some 80 million years ago.

Prior to 1938, when the first living coelacanth was discovered in the Comoros Islands area of the Western Indian Ocean, off southeastern Africa, the primitive species was known only from fossils.

In 1997, a fish identified as a coelacanth was photographed in a local fish market in Manado City, North Sulawesi, more than 10,000 km from its closest known relatives.

A live specimen was captured the following year and DNA analysis subsequently showed the Indonesian coelacanth to be a separate species.

Aquamarine Fukushima, using a remotely operated, self-propelled vehicle with a camera attached, has been undertaking field surveys in North Sulawesi since 2005.

The aquarium has been collaborating with the Research Center for Oceanography of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, and the Faculty of Fisheries and Marine Sciences of Sam Ratulangi University.

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