Another Surprise from the Coelacanth

The Coelacanth, often referred to as a “living fossil” due to its millions-of-years history in the fossil record and survival into the present era, has surprised scientists again. What’s the new surprise?

Turns out, the fish has lungs!

A fascinating article published on Popular Science today shares the news from a new study that compared modern coelacanths to their fossilized relatives and found that indeed, the modern fish has a lung structure similar to the those seen in the fossils.

From the article:

When a fisherman pulled a coelacanth out of the sea in 1938, researchers were stunned. The heavily scaled fish with lobes was a remnant of a bygone era, when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Scientists had fossils of coelacanths that were hundreds of millions of years old, and until that day were convinced that they’d all died out in the same event that killed off the dinosaurs.

But some coelacanths survived, and scientists have studied these weird fish for decades. We know that it has a strange, hinged jaw, lives off the southeastern coast of Africa and in a pocket of Indonesia, and eats squid and octopus. What we didn’t know is that it also has lungs.

In a study published today in Nature Communications researchers found that just like their fossilized predecessors, modern coelacanths also have a lung-like structure.

Get more of the amazing details from the excellent summary article on Popular Science!


Photo Credit: Laurent Ballesta / /