Coelacanth even older than thought

2012-04-11 20:37

Paris - The coelacanth, a "living fossil" fish that pre-dates the dinosaurs, is some 17 million years older than previously thought, scientists have found.

The earliest known skull of a coelacanth, unearthed in Yunnan, China dates the fish in its current shape to about 400 million years ago, according to research by the Chinese Academy of Sciences published on Tuesday in Nature Communications.

Coelacanths peaked in abundance about 240 million years ago.

They were thought to have died out around 65 million years ago until one was caught off South Africa in 1938.

Closely related to the lungfish, coelacanths usually live at depths of between 200 and 1 000m. Greyish-brown with spots, they can grow up to 2m in length and weigh as much as 91kg.

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