Model of a coelacanth at the MEERESMUSEUM

German Oceanographic Museum, Foundation German Oceanographic Museum

German Oceanographic Museum, Foundation German Oceanographic Museum

Of fossils and their last progeny

You can hardly imagine the tension and excitement when the marine biologist Hans Fricke 1987 met a living Coelacanth in caves at the Comoros for the first time. It was the sensational discovery of an underwater world that had remained hidden until now. Thanks to Fricke's successful deep sea diving expedition, oceanographers got an insight into the living conditions of the hidden cave dwellers for the first time. The first of his famous submersibles, the "GEO", is exhibited in the OZEANEUM.

Before this dive, there had already been spectacular finds of dead specimens. African fishermen sometimes brought unusual looking fish up from the depths in their nets. These were notable for their fleshy fins and large scales. In 1938, the existence of the Coelacanth was then scientifically proven following a discovery off the South African coast. In 1952 a second find near the Comoros archipelago followed. Since these encounters, the widespread opinion that the Coelacanth had died out millions of years ago had to be revised. Previously, they were only known through fossil impressions. On the 2nd floor of the MEERESMUSEUM a 160-million-year old fossil can also be seen next to an impressive model. The fossil Coelacanth was one of the closest relatives of the first terrestrial vertebrates.

The last remnants of this rare fish are leisurely giants, which can be up to 180 centimetres long and weigh 100 kilogrammes. The Comoros Coelacanths live in underwater caves between 200 and 400 metres deep. The viviparous females also bring their young into the world there. Since 1997/98 a further population prior near the Indonesian island of Sulawesi has been found, around 10000 kilometres from the Comoros. The Manado Coelacanth got its name after the town of Manado, where an example was discovered for the first time in a fish market.

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  • Title: Model of a coelacanth at the MEERESMUSEUM
  • Location: Deutsches Meeresmuseum, Stiftung Deutsches Meeresmuseum
  • Rights: photo: Johannes-Maria Schlorke