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New Revelations About an Ancient Fish

An after-hours trip to Aarhus University Hospital Skejby’s radiology department has shed light on a mysterious and ancient fish, one that remains one of the world’s rarest—the Coelacanth. Researchers from the University of Copenhagen and Aarhus University have removed Denmark’s only specimen of this primordial fish from its jar of alcohol and gained new insight into how it functions. The new knowledge could contribute to saving this critically endangered deep sea dweller.

When a South African fisherman came across a coelacanth in his net in 1938, it was like finding a living dinosaur—a catch that sent shockwaves throughout the scientific community. Until then, the coelacanth (SEE-lə-kanth) was believed to have been extinct for 66 million years. Since then, only about 300 specimens of this living fossil have been caught worldwide. In Denmark, a single fish, specimen number 23, has been submersed in alcohol at the Zoological Museum in Copenhagen for 60 years.

As many other coelacanth specimens have been dissected, its anatomy is no secret. But very little is known about the fish’s physiology—the way it functions. Now, researchers from the University of Copenhagen and Aarhus University have discovered new things about this extraordinarily rare and elusive deep-sea dweller.

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