In 1938, a Coelacanth (pronounced Cee-La-Kanth), a prehistoric looking fish that was thought extinct for almost 70 million years was caught live off the South African coast. The event stunned the scientific community. Over the years more of these ancient fish were caught and even more habitats found as far ranging as Indonesia.
What makes the Coelacanth so important is that many consider it a “living fossil “, an apparent intermediate between fish and amphibians, which first showed up in the fossil record over 400 million years ago.
Unlike modern fish, the Coelacanth did not have a backbone but an oil filled dorsal hollow notochord (the precursor to the modern vertebral based backbone). It had lobed fins that initially appeared better equipped for walking than swimming and an armored scaled look that could have been conjured up for a science fiction movie. This rare set of attributes allowed it to hide over the years in a very narrow eco-niche, safely away from the evolutionary forces that pushed it’s more modern descendants into the shapes of what we now consider to be modern fish.
As a small child, the first two books that I remember were about fossils and the second featured the Coelacanth. From about age nine, this creature captivated me. It only seems fitting that when starting a series of fossil inspired sculptures, I would start with the Coelacanth. For further information on the Coelacanth, check out: www.dinofish.com.