Celebrating coelacanth find 80 years ago
December 22 2018 marks 80 years since the discovery of the prehistoric fish, the coelacanth, off the coast of East London – and to celebrate, museum scientist Kevin Cole will be giving a talk on Saturday recounting the history and the tale of one of the most amazing scientific discoveries.
From never-before-seen videos of Captain Hendrick Goosen to Marjorie Courtenay Latimer’s and JLB Smith’s accounts, visitors can expect to see and hear the story being told by some of the biggest roleplayers in this fishy find.
“I’m going to let the story be told through archival footage, but I’ll also be bringing in some new themes and some of the latest discoveries regarding the coelacanth,” said Cole.
“One of the latest updates is that the entire genome of the coelacanth is now known and that’s really important for what it can reveal to scientists about evolution, but there are still lots of mysteries about the coelacanth to be solved.”
Cole said the coelacanth was one of the most iconic species in the world for biological sciences, because it has been around for more than 400 million years and survived five mass extinctions.
“What’s really amazing to me is that life as we know it has been around for about 545 million years and for more than 60% of that time, the coelacanth has been in our oceans,” said Cole.
“It was an absolutely remarkable find for East London and really put us on the international map in the world of science.”
Today there are two living species of coelacanth, the Indonesian coelacanth (Latimeria menadoensis) and the West Indian Ocean coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae), which can be found off the coast of Africa. Both are protected species. The fish was thought to have been extinct for over 60 million years before then East London Museum curator, Marjorie Courtenay Latimer, discovered it in Captain Goosen’s catch off the East London coast near Chulumna in 1938. That same fish is part of the East London Museum’s vast coelacanth display today.
Cole’s talk will take place at 2.30pm in the Marjorie Courtenay Latimer Hall at the EL Museum and admission is free.
To celebrate the milestone the museum will also be open from 9am to 4pm on Saturday, December 22 with a reduced entry fee of R10 for adults and free for children. Hourly talks on the coelacanth will take place from 10am on the day.
‘It was an absolutely remarkable find for East London and really put us on the international map in the world of science’
ANCIENT CREATURE: Scientist Kevin Cole admires the East London Museum's iconic coelacanth exhibition. Cole will be giving a talk at the museum's MLC Hall in celebration of the 80th anniversary of the fish’s discovery.