Who Discovered the Coelacanth Fish?


Quick Answer

The first living coelacanth of record was discovered by Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer in 1938. It was described and given the Latin name Latimeria chalumnae by Professor J.L.B. Smith of Rhodes University in 1939.

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Full Answer

The coelacanth is a primitive species of lobe-finned fish with distinctive features, including fins internally supported by bone that move in a synchronized pattern associated with terrestrial animals. Prior to its discovery, the species was known only from Triassic through Cretaceous period fossils. The 1938 specimen was caught by a commercial fishing vessel and brought to East London, South Africa, where Ms. Courtenay-Latimer was curator of the East London Natural History Museum. She recognized the uniqueness of the specimen, preserved it, and sent a sketch to Professor Smith, who identified it as a coelacanth.

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