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Six Ways To Prepare a Coelacanth – AMNH Shelf Life

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The Coelacanth, pronounced see-luh-kanth, is a prehistoric-looking fish that scientists thought had gone extinct 66 to 80 million years ago, until one was discovered in a fisherman’s haul near the Chalumna River by South African museum curator Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer:

On 22 December 1938, she received a telephone call that such a fish had been brought in. She went to the docks to inspect the catch of Captain Hendrik Goosen. “I picked away at the layers of slime to reveal the most beautiful fish I had ever seen,” she said. “It was five foot long, a pale mauvy blue with faint flecks of whitish spots; it had an iridescent silver-blue-green sheen all over. It was covered in hard scales, and it had four limb-like fins and a strange puppy dog tail.”


Since this discovery, two coelacanth species have been found along the Indonesian and eastern African coastlines. The latter’s Latimeria chalumnae population is critically endangered… which brings us to the video above.

From the American Museum of Natural History, this is Shelf Life: Six Ways To Prepare a Coelacanth. Ichthyology Curator Melanie L. J. Stiassny explains how a 1962 specimen and its quintuplets, properly prepared for study in a variety of ways, can continue to provide answers about its species (and ours) for generations into the future.

We love these behind-the-scenes videos from AMNH. Watch their previous episodes: 33 Million Things and Turtles and Taxonomy.

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