Mysteries of the Deep

This past week a headline from National Geographic caught my eye:

Coelacanths Can Live Past 100, Don’t Show Age?

with a large picture of a coelacanth swimming right at the top. These fish were thought to be long extinct, until they were discovered to be still living in the deep, deep waters of the ocean during the twentieth century. And there is still much to be learned about them. I first learned of these fascinating creatures in Sally M. Walker’s Fossil Fish Found Alive: Discovering the Coelacanth (Carolrhoda, 2002). It’s  a terrific work of non-fiction, with a dramatic story, a mystery that is still unfolding, really fine writing and engaging photographs. Imagine identifying a live fish (or at least recently alive) through fossil remains dating back 400-70 million years ago. The excitement of the initial discoveries, the attempts to learn more, the challenges facing scientists– turns out the fish live at depths so great divers cannot observe them (indeed, one died in the attempt) — make for fascinating reading.

This story stuck with me; in spring 2003 we visited London, including a trip to the Natural History Museum, where I was excited to see a coelacanth:Note: Coelacanths live at such great depths that people have not been able to find a way to keep them alive in captivity, because of the pressure differences (they think). So this is the closest I can get. I hope you find reading about this amazing prehistoric modern fish as fascinating as I did! and still do . . .

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