Aquarium snaps world’s first photos of young coelacanth

Kyodo

A team from an aquarium in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, has succeeded in capturing the world’s first photographs of juvenile coelacanths, a fish regarded as a living fossil, off Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island.

According to Aquamarine Fukushima, the fry were found Oct. 6 at a depth of 161 meters in Manado Bay off North Sulawesi Province, where the Indonesian coelacanth was first discovered more than a decade ago.

While little is known about the breeding habits of coelacanths, examination of captured specimens has shown that their eggs hatch inside the female and the young, known as pups, are born as fully formed juveniles.

The fry photographed by Aquamarine Fukushima were 31.5 cm long and appeared to be newborn.

The coelacanth has changed little since ancient times. It is believed to have originated during the Devonian period about 360 million years ago and was thought to have gone extinct some 80 million years ago.

Prior to 1938, when the first living coelacanth was discovered in the Comoros Islands area of the Western Indian Ocean, off southeastern Africa, the primitive species was known only from fossils.

In 1997, a fish identified as a coelacanth was photographed in a local fish market in Manado City, North Sulawesi, more than 10,000 km from its closest known relatives.

A live specimen was captured the following year and DNA analysis subsequently showed the Indonesian coelacanth to be a separate species.

Aquamarine Fukushima, using a remotely operated, self-propelled vehicle with a camera attached, has been undertaking field surveys in North Sulawesi since 2005.

The aquarium has been collaborating with the Research Center for Oceanography of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, and the Faculty of Fisheries and Marine Sciences of Sam Ratulangi University.