The Herald on Sunday

Human-sized ‘dinofish’ can live for up to 100 years


THE coelacanth – a giant fish still around from the prehistori­c era – can live for 100 years, a new study has found.

These slow-moving, peoplesize­d fish of the deep, nicknamed a “living fossil”, are the opposite of the live fast, die young mantra. These nocturnal fish grow at an achingly slow pace.

Females do not hit sexual maturity until their late 50s, the study said, while male coelacanth­s are sexually mature at 40 to 69 years.

And maybe strangest of all, researcher­s figure pregnancy in the fish lasts about five years. Coelacanth­s, which have been around for 400 million years, were thought extinct until they were found alive in 1938 off South Africa. Scientists long believed coelacanth­s live about 20 years. But by applying a standard technique for dating commercial fish, French scientists calculated they actually live close to a century, according to a study in Current Biology. Coelacanth­s are so endangered that scientists can only study specimens already caught and dead. In the past, scientists calculated fish ages by counting big lines on a specific coelacanth scale.

But the French scientists found they were missing smaller lines that could only be seen using polarised light – the technique used to figure out the age of commercial fish.

Study co-author Bruno Ernande, a marine evolutiona­ry ecologist at France’s marine research institute, said polarised light revealed five smaller lines for every big one. The researcher­s concluded the smaller lines better correlated to a year of coelacanth age.

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