Coelacanth: The Fish That Time Forgot

Coelacanth: The Fish That Time ForgotDocumentary about the Coelacanth, a prehistoric bony fish believed to have been long extinct until one was caught in 1938 off the southern coast of Africa. No trace was found again until May 2000 when a colony of the fish were discovered and filmed.

The Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) is an enigmatic and important species of fish. It is the only living member (along with a recently discovered second species of Latimeria) of the lobe-finned fishes, a group believed by some to be the sister-group of the terrestrial vertebrates.

Early naturalists, who had studied the fossil records, had long been puzzled and intrigued by this creature, with its lobed, limb-like fins. But it was only with the publication of Darwin's Origin Of the Species, in 1859, and his theory of evolution, that its true significance first became apparent.

For here was a fossil species that answered the critics who poured scorn on the very idea that fish could somehow have walked out of the sea and later diversified into the huge variety of land-based animals around us today - including man himself.

Yet even after Darwin's theory became widely accepted, no naturalist ever imagined that coelacanths might have survived into the modern age. At least, not until Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer made her astonishing discovery amid the foetid heat of that South African dockside.

Marjorie's find turned conventional scientific thinking on its head. But it was by no means the end of the coelacanths mystery. Not by a long chalk. For in the decades after that discovery, the coelacanth continued to defy man's best attempts to study it.

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Ratings: 7.40/10 from 25 users.

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34 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Cameron Hughes

    I didn't forget about this! I remember reading about this a long time ago!

  2. magarac

    It´s only time that forgot the fish. No one else did!

  3. Robert M

    Very interesting

  4. Gary V

    A great doc & in HD too. Very interesting.

  5. wald0

    Interesting doc, though it does kind of get boring toward the end. It makes me wonder how many odd creatures we have yet to see from the depths of the sea. Kind of lends some credibility to cryptozoology. Not that I regard the search for bigfoot as real science mind you but, perhaps there is some scientific explanation for some of the sea monsters people have reported seeing. The deep ocean is a very hard place to explore, not like the redwood forests of the pacific northwest. It is also such an alien environment when compared to ours that it is concievable that creatures that have evolved there would look like monsters to us. If you have ever seen a fangtooth you know what I mean. They look like some creature from a nightmare, though they are only about as big as an average mans hand. If he isn't ugly enough for you check out the Umbrella Mouth Gulper Eel, not exactly cute and cuddly huh? Want a good laugh, look up the Blob fish. It looks like Jimmy Durante on a bad day. Anyway, great documentary- enjoy.

  6. communism_works

    The new definition of endangered.
    Any species that's worth more dead than alive.

  7. Jane Haydon

    Thankyou, this was so interesting. I don't see it as an ugly fish however!

  8. donvedran

    huh , very nice, thank you !!

  9. Torie

    This is a great documentary. Really interesting, even if you aren't particularly interested in fish.

  10. Killin

    I still don't understand the connection between that fish and the evolution of man. I mean, their flipper look a bit like turtle flippers,, but the idea that they move them in the same way we move our arm and leg, its a bit of a wacky stretch to infer a relationship with human origins...

    I like the idea that earth life emerged from the sea, but what is the chronology and the evidence of that chronology of evolution I wonder.

  11. Justin Allen

    We now know that this species of fish in particular is not in the lineage of land animal evolution.But it is accepted that all land animals did indeed evolve from fish.Just not this one.It doesn't have so much to do with the way the fins move killin as it does in the bone placement in the appendages.Fish have all the structure in there fins as we do in out fingers,hands,wrists, and arms.I will give you an analogy.We know that certain Carnivorous Dinosaurs were part of the same branch of Theropod as T-Rex because it had developed a certain D shaped structure in its premaxillary Teeth.Once evolved this passed down to its descendents.The same as with the fish.Every land animal on earth shares the same makeup in its limbs.Albeit they can seem extremely different.Also the accepted chronology for land evolution is as follows:



    Arthropods (Creatures such as crabs) Gave rise to Arachnids and Insects.

    This is all a very simple way of putting this and I apologize for any discrepancy as evolution is extremely difficult to understand much less explain.Especially when it is right off the top of my head.I hope this sheds a little light on the subject for you though.

  12. Killin

    I get it, good answer.

  13. Rachelnico

    interesting, but didn't give me any type of epiphany.

  14. MohammedSafwan

    The Critics of the Natural Selection Evolution are right.

    The Critics do not have a problem with Evolution as a process
    The Problem they have is Evolution as a "Natural Selection" process.
    Hence the very idea of "Natural Selection" do not apply to this species of fish which according to the documentary was a prehistoric fish of almost 200 or 300 million years old. If it was such an old fish & has survived till 1928 the question & argument is:
    why this fish didnot evolve according to the "Natural Selection" process for such a long period of 200 or 300 million years?
    This clearly shows that Darwinian Evolution theory of "Natural Selection" was not acting & there was no Darwinian style of Mutation taking place with this species for such a long time...
    And If there was no "Natural Selection" or "Mutation" taking place in these species for such a long time, these(species) very existence was not possible according to Darwinian "Natural Selection" process that speaks of "Survival of the Fittest" or as the Neo Darwinian say: "Natural Selection by Preferential Transmission of attributes that are registered in the genes"
    And if somehow these "Natural Selection" of Darwinian or Neo Darwinian did take place with this fish we are suppose to find a range of these fishes with differential characteristics that eventual shows us the progress of this species into some amphibians? But the Matter of fact is there is no such variety of Characteristics that was found amongst this fish - THAT LEAVES A HUGE GAP IN THE DARWINIAN STYLE OF EVOLUTION
    The Fact is the phyla of this fish stopped Evolving and this fish is not the only one that showed such halt & still survived for 300 million years like:
    Corals &
    various insects...

    So people who think the Darwinian style of Evolution exist are following a mirage that has repeatedly forsaken its followers!

    There is a need for a better theory that can be provable to account for such processes such as the coelacanth fish.
    Darwin & current day Darwinian have literally failed to account for such happening & failed to discover more such enigmas in nature. And the reason they have failed is because they made the "Darwinian Theory" of Evolution as an Ideology & Ideologies die hard...If the "Darwinian Theory" would have been shelved as it had served its purpose, for sure in this passage of 150 years we could have got lot more better theories than just hanging on to the Darwinian Model...

  15. Vlatko


    On top of being everything else, you're creationist too.

    Please do what you do best: Cite verses.

    1. Not all animals and plants evolve with the same speed.

    2. Coelacanths did evolve. The coelacanths alive today are not identical to the fossil species.

    3. The same is with the sharks and some other organisms.

    4. There isn't organism alive today that was alive in the exact same form million years ago. All living things evolve, some faster than others.

  16. MohammedSafwan


    People of good stature exhibit their reasoning power by sharing their knowledge on the subject & give their reasons for disagreement in counter to other man's argument & understanding(not to simply write one liners) - This is one of the trait that separate us from Animals. Even a human child has such deductive skills of knowing who is who...

    You are quiet aware of my ability to cite verses(very good)and I am quiet aware of "Selective Listeners", but you have forgotten your own natural ability to reason with those verses & my arguments.
    The kind of statements presented in your post seems to be derived out of superficial observation due to a phobia associated with the verses & my arguments...
    If there is any "home work" left please complete & return back with sound counter arguments against each of the reasonable questions that I have produced.

    Also What Do you understand about:

    Times & Climes of Darwinian Evolution
    Idea of Natural Selection
    Idea of Artificial Selection
    Natural Selection by Preferential Selective process

    Then we may argue, agree, disagree as humans(not Apes)...

  17. MohammedSafwan

    @ Vlatko,

    If one liners & individual statements are to be considered as proof of debunking, then I doubt the sanity of such person who uses it...

    I Do Not Reject Evolution. But for certainty "Darwinian Evolution" has failed me & misled most of the people by forcing them to assume such conjectures as "Natural Selection" as a valid theory. And here we see a species that defy & disprove such conjectures for millions of years together. And the conjecture defenders (by innocence or by ignorance) knowing that there is no transitional form(lack of evidence) still claim it to be empirical science! Still considering "Natural Selection" theory as science...Wonderful!!!

    About the book of Bill Bryson: Everybody now & then like a book that can break down complex concept in easy terms, However you tell me if Bill's book can be considered for serious investigation of the matter of such complexity as Evolution?

    Thank you for the link to those wiki pages. The wiki pages that speak of different fields in science speaking of "Evidence of Common Descent" is nothing more than "Neo-Darwinian" theory. Old Wine packed in New Bottles. As part of evidence when they speak of of "Phylogenetic Reconstruction" it only shows the reconstruction of gene sequence which nevertheless, does not give rise to any new species. As mentioned in those pages they were only able reconstruct or recover the gene sequence of mammoths, Neanderthals. It does not give any evidence about the so called "Natural Selection" process of Evolution of a new species. More over one must not forget the fact that this reconstruction is devoid from the knowledge of the primordial condition of earth, the state of DNA at that point in time of Mammoths or Neanderthals & the high inclination of the scientists involved to prove Neo-Darwinian Theory. And all this endeavor actually let to the invention of "Neo Darwinian" Theory... There are No Happy Co-incidences(Natural Selection) in Evolution...Evolution is about Organization of Organism...

    Cited verses are to think, argue & agree or dis-agree.
    Qur'an is not the christian bible to just merely read it & leave it. Qur'an is a book that reasons with you and in turn gives the liberty to its reader to accept or reject it...
    And I do not look for credibility or any like button hits...
    If all I wanted was credibility I would have invited a few like minded and simply asked them to support my arguments(without knowing head & tail about it) and keep hitting the like button...:-D

  18. Vlatko


    I really don't have time to do this.

    knowing that there is no transitional form(lack of evidence) still claim it to be empirical science!

    Read the wiki article I gave you. You'll find there plenty of empirical evidence, other then the fossils. If you discard every evidence and just look at the DNA research solely, that will give you enough data in favor of evolution. If you want to go further read in details into a library.

    However you tell me if Bill's book can be considered for serious investigation of the matter of such complexity as Evolution?

    A part of that book explains quite exactly why we don't have transitional fossils. Read it. I can't post 5 pages of text here.

    Qur'an is not the christian bible to just merely read it & leave it.

    And now you've offended all the people who think that the Bible is "the book".

  19. MohammedSafwan

    @ Vlatko,

    Neither do I have time...Maybe some other time :-)

    Time being I will just debunk the myths that so called "Evolutionist" have against Muslim Evolutionist(la Creationist):

    Myth 1) Creationism of Bible = Evolution mention in Qur'an -
    No! there is no such parallel that can be drawn.
    This myth exist due to the age old systematized mis-conceptions that have & are being spread across the world against Islam & Qur'an. The most generalized of such mis-conception is that Muhammad(pbuh) copied the Bible to compile Qur'an, hence the derived myth that whatever scientific in-accuracy exist in Bible should have transferred into Qur'an(so it is not worth reading). If any person took a careful study of the Qur'an it is easy to see the difference.
    However people need to know that Qur'an is a book of guidance. Qur'an contains reference to several subjects from variety of fields of life, so scientist might find something intriguing(including Evolution), in the same way an economist or law practitioner might find a subject of their interests, of course all are free to investigate & criticize with reason & proof pertaining to that particular subject. But needless to say: some people have wrongly used the same Qur'an to justify their insanity...So BEWARE OF WRONG INTERPRETATIONS...

    Myth 2) Muslim Do Not Believe in Evolution -
    No! Muslims DO believe in Evolution. Muslims believe in an Evolution from Unicellular to Multi-cellular organism including Man(No dispute whatsoever). The Muslims believe in the Evolution of Life from Water. And all this belief is derived from the knowledge gained from Qur'an(maybe surprising But True!). The dispute lies in the Exactness or the absoluteness of few Evolutionist lay in the "Natural Selection" process which according to Muslims do not really explain how things happen and this either way does not mean that Muslims lose the spirit of scientific investigation of how actually thing might have work...But the Muslims ever maintain Allah Knows Best until they arrive at the exact truth.

    The religious difference between Muslims & Atheist is:

    Muslims say: we dont know completely = Allah Knows Best...
    Atheist say: we dont know completely = Therefore there is no Allah to Know either

    Myth 3) Muslims Believe in the Biblical version of 6 days of creation or Evolution -
    No! We Muslims maintain the Evolution process took ages and the ages are not limited to some 4000, 6000 or 10,000 years. We rather maintain the exact time is unknown - A Neutral Position. Allah Knows Best...
    But the scientific research provide reliable information based on the radioactive isotope research to believe in.

    Therefore with Muslims there exists an agreement to dis-agree with what the "Darwinian Evolutionist" propose as Evolution. There are loop holes in that theory...
    About the latest field of Genetics. It is needless to say Genetic Manipulation is not a new game in town...
    Anyways we can avoid this talk as it is time consuming and can be taken some other time...

    And about me offending the People of Book. I am sorry if I had. However I live in a highly diversified society that contain people from all walks of life. Therefore when I mention something I mention it out of observation of behaviors & current practices in their belief system and I can subsequently support with proof of what I say about them...

  20. magarac

    Correct if i´m wrong but isn´t evolution an reaction to a changing environment?
    So what if the habitat of these fish did not change at all for the least a couple of million years? Why would there be any need to change?

    And then all these things about mixing religion with evolution. Anyone can go ahead and believe in whatever the hell they want and thats just fine.
    Evolution is a fact and religion is a believe.
    And the two go along just fine if anyone wants to.

  21. MohammedSafwan


    Indeed Evolution is a reaction to a changing environment, there is no doubt about it. So do you want to tell me that the following changes never took place for a period of 300 MILLION YEARS!, hence the fish did not Evolve:-

    Change in Climate ?
    Change in Geographical Structure(Continental Drift) ?
    Change in Oceanographic ?
    Change in Natural habitat ?
    Change in Migration ?
    Arrival of New Predators ?
    Arrival of New Prey ?

    About the mixing of Religion with Evolution; In Islam we do not find any in-compatibility. The issue however is: In Islam there are some events & concepts that according to Science falls into Super-Natural category and Science only deals with Natural World. Science do not deal with meta-physics, all though we see some development in Science relating to meta-physics too...

    For Ex:-

    Birth of Jesus Christ:- Islam speaks of the Miraculous Birth of Christ, that is without any male Intervention. And in Islam there is no such idea of Anthropology of Allah like the trinity concept.
    In such things Science do not have any evidence or explanation for Miraculous Births...It can neither be proved or dis-proved because it is an event out of the Natural Order or Natural World - Simply termed as Super Natural...Therefore we can not use Evolution to explain such stuff...

  22. Zach Fraser

    blah blah blah im religious blah blah blach im scientiffic blah blah blah i cant spell

  23. Tim Gozanski

    Religion is manmade also

  24. Tim Gozanski

    ...and one of most abused, corrupted, and deadly inventions. Science is a better way to all agree and get along--by far, very, very, very far.

  25. wt1776

    Can't you, administrator, just block the postings of the religious nuts? They make every damn issue a forum for their rantings. They are not promoting any rational discussion.

  26. Roan7995

    Argumentum ad ignorantiam.

  27. ...

    Holy crap screw the coelacanth. I want that tortoise that guy was petting!!!!

  28. abner holtiton

    Hope someone creates top documentary films channel for religious people only

  29. Conrad Musekamp

    They must have caught more than one between 1938 and 2000, because they have had a preserved Coelacanth at the Vancouver aquarium in BC since I was a kid in the 70's, and I do not think it's the one from 1938.

  30. themut70

    they live in volcanic caves so no, their environment probably has never changed so why would they, or could it simply be a flaw in thier evolutionary gene, either way it is and will one day be explainable by science and it has nothing to do with bloody religion... oh and where's your proof?? a book? idea thats been drummed into that narrow mind since birth that some magical entity created it all?? open your eyes.. you are blinded by religion, a concept that was put in place by man to control the masses, to stop us from thinking outside the box, to maintain world order.. religion belongs in the dark ages along side witchcraft.. let it go.. it causes nothing but misery word wide.. name a war not shedding blood in the name of it! here's my quote i share on facebook and any other site i can:

    Religion: no such thing, if everyone stopped believing in multiple religions then maybe blood will cease to be spilled in their names, there is only one religion, its deep within our hearts, its not rocket science, its to simply know the difference between right and wrong, we were born with that ability, not brain washed as with religion.
    when will mankind realize religions are man made and merely another form of control for those in power as it has been for centuries, free yourself and your mind !!

  31. MohammedSafwan

    O Dear,

    Not again!
    I dont know what is your understanding of religion & what generates so much of hatred...
    There is too much of confusion out there. People say something practice something...
    You desire to have a harmonious state of life for yourself & your fellow men, and for reasons that you may have and information given to you, you might have concluded to say: Religion is the Root Cause. But think, this might be because of your current experience of the kind of society you live in, so is it fair on your part to blame Islam for this....Blaming muslims could be understood because people can be bad & can be good. But saying - Islam has institutionalized any bad behavior is a very miscalculated & baseless argument.
    All I can tell you is: Read Quran - try to understand it with an open heart...I recommend you read translation of Muhammad Asad (Leopold Weiss). If you are not convinced if what is stated in Quran is true and should be followed, you are free to chose.

    As far as Evolution & Islam is concerned, I am tired to go through the whole cycle of arguments again & again. Evolution is "trying" to "prove" to explain a lot but the whole thing is so subjective, speculative & so much subject to change time to time & person to person. With all the world "scientist" put together they are just not able to prove (experience others) it simply to everybody. Like Einstein supposedly said: If you cant explain it enough in easy terms, you yourself have not understood(know) enough.

  32. Allison

    No evolutionary changes in 300 million years means it was living in an environment it was particularly well suited to for that long, and it obviously didn't NEED to change. Living things don't evolve because they want to, but rather because they have to. If they don't have to change, they don't. It's rather a simple concept.

  33. lookAtHistory

    Religion is crime.

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