Coelacanth: angler catches 'prehistoric' fish


May 20, 2007

Kenyan fishermen caught this coelacanth in 2001, one of several found in the past decade.

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- An Indonesian angler caught a fish once thought to have disappeared along with the dinosaurs and held it in a quarantined pool until it died 17 hours later, a biologist said Sunday.

The coelacanth fish was thought to have become extinct 65 million years ago until one was found in 1938 off Africa's coast. The discovery of the so-called "living fossil" ignited worldwide interest.

Several other specimens have since been found, including one in 1998 in waters off the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, where Justinus Lahama also hooked his 1.3-meter (4-foot), 50-kilogram (110-pound) fish early Saturday.

The fisherman pulled it from waters near Bunaken National Marine Park, which has some of the highest levels of marine biodiversity in the world and is a popular diving spot for tourists, marine biologist Lucky Lumingas said.

Lumingas classified the fish as Coelacanth Latemeria, a powerful predator with highly mobile, limb-like fins. It is usually about 5 feet (1.5 meters) long and weighs around 45 kilograms (100 pounds). Unlike most other fish, it gives birth to live young rather than laying eggs.

Lumingas, who works with the local Sam Ratulangi University, said it was "extraordinary" the fish survived for 17 hours in a quarantined pool.

"The fish should have died within two hours because this species only lives in deep, cold-sea environment at a depth of at least 60 meters (200 feet)," he said, adding that his university would closely study the carcass.