Posted by: Loren Coleman on February 25th, 2006
“The coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) is the darling of cryptozoology, a true living fossil. Its story demonstrates that unknown, undiscovered, or at least long-thought-extinct animals can still be found – especially in the oceans.” – - from The Field Guide to Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents, and Other Mystery Denizens of the Deep .
My Boing Boing buddy David Pescovitz, an astute student of cryptozoology, highlights the following coelacanth image and writes: “Ben Sakoguchi has painted hundreds of acrylic-on-canvas works inspired by the colorful labels found on crates of California oranges from the 1880s to the 1950s.”
Pescovitz’s favorite fish has a large fan base, it turns out. Most schoolchildren know the story of the coelacanth and of the special museum curator who “discovered” it. Of course, it’s become part of the essence of cryptozoology and the story of not discarding that bit of evidence that seems a bit out-of-the-ordinary.
The fish has the scientific name Latimeria chalumnae because of the woman most associated with the coelacanth, Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer. She would have celebrated her 99th birthday this week, on February 24, if she had not passed away at 97, two years ago. Courtenay-Latimer became famous because she revealed the discovery of the first coelacanth in 1938, the so-called “living fossil” that had supposedly been extinct for 65 million years. She had recognized the significance of the find by the captain, Hendrik Goosen of the trawler Nerine.
You can’t go to a cryptozoology site without running across a drawing or photograph of the coelacanth.
One of the best locations to find images of the coelacanth is Pip Burns’ amazing “Cryptozoology and Philately” collection. You can find more about the coelacanth stamps, specifically, at his site’s page on Latimeria chalumnae. His great stamps are treasure troves of cryptid art and history.