Cel­e­brat­ing coela­canth find 80 years ago

Daily Dispatch - - News - MADELEINE CHA­PUT [email protected]­patch.co.za

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’

Pic­ture: ALAN EA­SON

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.

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