RESOURCES: This Fish Tale Is No Whopper

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Science  13 Jul 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5528, pp. 179
DOI: 10.1126/science.293.5528.179a

In 1938, a South African fisherman landed a remarkable catch: a husky, bluish-purple, meter-and-a-half-long fish with muscular fins. A local museum curator was astonished to realize that the specimen was a coelacanth, a cousin of the ancestor of all land vertebrates that supposedly died out more than 65 million years ago. Many more individuals have since turned up in the southwestern Indian Ocean, and scientists nabbed a second species in Indonesia in 1998. offers a lively roundup of the biology, history, and conservation status of coelacanths, including a bibliography, original sketches, photos, and a first-person description by Web master Jerome Hamlin of a submersible trip to the fish's deep-water home. Historical accounts cover the ups and downs of coelacanth studies—from the rivalries that have roiled the field since its beginning, to a tragic 2000 expedition in which a diver perished after surfacing too quickly. Hamlin, a coelacanth enthusiast in Greenwich, Connecticut, founded (which sells T-shirts and videos) to help preserve these endangered fishes.

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