Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 29th, 2009
Breaking news out of the country of India gives some pause. Has a new population of coelacanth been discovered?
Reports are being accompanied by the photograph above that a coelacanth (Latimeria sp.?) has been recovered from the Ganges River.
Of course, such a find would be a remarkable discovery, extending the known ranges of the fish often called a “living fossil” beyond those of Latimeria chalumnae near the Comoros, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar, and in iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Kwazulu-Natal in South Africa, and Latimeria menadoensis off the shore of Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Coelacanths, which first appeared in the Middle Devonian fossil record, were thought to have become extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period. That is until the first specimen was found off the east coast of South Africa in 1938.
Now news comes that Indian paleontologists are rushing to Calcutta in West Bengal after locals claimed to have fished a “prehistoric coelacanth” out of the water. The experts are trying to work out how what would be the biggest ever coelacanth specimen, weighing 320 kilos, came to be floating down the Ganges.
The fish, eight feet long and three feet wide, had a cut on its stomach and some of the fins had been torn free.
Officials appear to be standing by the young people who raised the alarm saying: “Initially we thought that a big sea animal was coming to devour us, it was only when we got out the water we realised it was dead.”
Experts believe that if it is a coelacanth, the fish may have been caught and dumped by fishermen as it is almost worthless because the flesh exudes oils even when dead, giving the flesh a foul flavor and a disgusting smell, reports the Austrian Times.
Philip Burns, who maintains the world’s only site on “Cryptozoology and Philately,” an excellent resource, passed this news along to me, with a caution I share. The photograph appears to show a fish other than a coelacanth, something like a grouper. The common name “grouper” is usually given to fish in one of two large genera, Mycteroperca and Epinephelus.
I think I may have even identified the exact species of grouper. Compare the photograph of the Ganges fish with a preserved specimen of the orange-spotted grouper, Epinephelus coioides (Hamilton, 1822), whose range includes the coastal areas of India.
Needless to say, if there is a followup to this story, I’ll note it here at Cryptomundo.
Stamp images courtesy of Pib Burns’ great site.