Fishy story of the one that just won’t die

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to Coelacanth

What do you know about the coelacanth colonies? Well, if you’re like me, not much until recently.

It has nothing to do with colonisation as you may know it, but instead to do with a group of rare fish found in unusual locations.

These fish are said to include the oldest known living clan of the Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish and tetrapods).

While that might read like hieroglyphics to you, do not despair as National Geographic Wild brings you Dinofish, a special series about coelacanths in a simplified format.

We meet Dr Richard Pyle, who is a zoologist and deep-sea diver, and see him dive deep into the sea in search of the coelacanth colonies (pictured). At 120m the good doctor comes across a lot of rare scenery, from the incredibly shaped sea bed to the almost- extinct fish. To top it all, the site of his adventure is KwaZulu-Natal’s Sodwana Bay.

So once again the world stops to learn a thing about the past from South Africa, solidifying the notion that all life forms originated in Africa.

Though we can argue about it all we want, there is evidence that it is in South Africa that man evolved from crawling to walking upright. Also, there is undeniable evidence that people made deliberate use of fire.

In 1924, the hominid skull, which helped decide on the origins of man, was discovered in North West.

The fossils that have been found at the Cradle of Humankind have also added to the evidence that life as we know it started here.

Back to the fish.

The coelacanth is generally regarded as an extinct species and once again South Africa comes to the curious world’s aid with not only fossils, but living creatures this time.

The coelacanth was thought to be extinct about 65 million years ago, so it is a big deal that after looking all over the world the place they have mostly been found is off Africa’s coast. Scientists have categorised the phenomenon of finding them alive as the “Lazarus taxon”, meaning a situation where a species is thought of as extinct and reappears much later.

Aptly named Dinofish, the programme suggests that the coelacanth existed at the same time that dinosaurs roamed the land.

Speaking of dinosaurs, there was a report earlier this year that a dinosaur nursery had been discovered in South Africa. The nesting site is said to be about 190 million years old and belonged to a herbivorous prosauropod dinosaur known as Massospondylus.

The finding, which contained clutches of prehistoric eggs, provided scientists with further insight on the process of evolution that took place as well as the behaviour of early dinosaurs.

So while other people create fictional films about this subject, this show gives you the facts behind the development of marine species through evolution.

• Dinofish airs on Sunday at 11am on Nat Geo Wild (DStv channel 182).


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