Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Fisherman says: "It was an enormous fish. It had phosphorescent green eyes and legs."

Had Justinus Lahama been smoking particularly strong Filipino skunk?

Not at all. It's time to meet the - ahem - world famous coelacanth (or Latimeria menadoensis), renowned throughout the animal kingdom for being able to perform headstands on the sea bed. I kid ye not.

These circus performers apparently provide researchers with a 'window into the past' as their fossil record dates back 350 million years.

They're are odd in appearance too, looking almost as if they have legs because of their large-lobed fins. Indeed, according to the BBC, they are sometimes dubbed 'old four legs'.

Scientists previously thought the fish group had died out about 70 million years ago but discovered they were wrong in 1938 when one was caught 30 kilometers southwest of East London (which is actually in South Africa - confused? So was I...).

The fish don't seem to have evolved much either over the years. Of two different types found - with only a 3.5% genome difference - in places separated by an enormous gap of thousands of miles, estimates from genetic fingerprinting suggest that they separated about four to five million years ago.

However, the boffins tell us, if you look at the geology of our oceans, this suggests that they should have separated about 30 million years ago. This leads me to my - possibly erroneous - assertion that the fish haven't evolved much.

And who would evolve much living down there in the cold and the darkness with nothing to evolve for?

All this lack of evolution seems to have taken its toll, though, as the fish is on the world's 'critically endangered' list. Poor little bugger.

That should teach it to be more proactive in the future!

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