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Marine science: Ocean photographer finds a ‘living fossil’ creature

The coelacanth, which dates back 410 million years, is a type of “lobe-finned” fish that emerged from the ocean between 390 and 360 million years ago.

Laurent Ballesta, a deep ocean photographer, looked directly into the eyes of a creature supposed to have gone extinct with the dinosaurs.

“This isn’t only a fish we thought was extinct…” Ballesta described it as “a masterpiece in the history of evolution.”

Coelacanths reside on the seafloor, as deep as 300 metres (984 feet), and congregate in submerged caves. Ballesta first encountered a coelacanth in one of these caves.

Coelacanths were abundant on every continent during the Triassic Period, when dinosaurs first appeared. The coelacanth, which dates back 410 million years, is a type of “lobe-finned” fish that emerged from the ocean between 390 and 360 million years ago.

Its powerful, fleshy fins were a predecessor to the paired limbs of tetrapods, which comprise all land-living vertebrates such as amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, and, yes, humans. In fact, coelacanths have a closer relationship to tetrapods than any other known fish species.
The youngest documented fossil coelacanth is 66 million years old, suggesting that these species are long extinct. Later in 1938, a fish with dazzling blue-green scales and four limb-like fins was captured in a trawling net off the coast of South Africa.

Ballesta stated he wanted to push the limits of ocean exploration, which led him to become a marine biologist, pioneering deep diver, and award-winning underwater photographer.

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Marine science: Ocean photographer finds a ‘living fossil’ creature

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