Unintentionally re-discovering a population of fish that predates dinosaurs, which was previously believed to be extinct by several scholarly communities, is a team of South African hunters.
A study claims that the coelacanth, a “four-legged fossil shark,” has been located in the West Indian Ocean off the coast of Madagascar.
Coelacanths were brought back from the brink of extinction in 1938, and now that they have been shown to be healthy once more, marine biologists are calling for more aggressive conservation measures to protect the 420 million-year-old fish.
More of the fish have been caught since they resurfaced around the coasts of South Africa, Tanzania, and the Comoros Islands.
The finding of coelacanths is thought to be related to the continued rise in demand for shark fins and oil. This has forced fishermen to cast their gill nets deeper into the water close to where the previously extinct species congregate.
Fishermen using gillnets in shark-hunting expeditions are contributing to their resurgence. The high-tech deep-sea nets will hit where coelacanths gather, around 328 to 492 feet below the water’s surface, while they seek to hunt sharks for their fins, oil, and other commercial enterprises.
The 420 million-year-old species was believed to be extinct until 1938 when the first living coelacanth in modern memory was found off the coast of South Africa. Scientists were astounded to discover a member of the “Latimeria chalumnae” genus, complete with eight fins, a unique spotting pattern on the scales, and enormous bodies, still alive.
The increase in shark hunting, which started booming in the 1980s, may pose a new threat to the coelacanths, according to a recent study published in the SA Journal of Science.
They are concerned that the coelacanths are now being “exploited,” especially in Madagascar.
Their study goes on to say that, since Madagascar is likely to be the “epicenter” of numerous coelacanth subspecies, conservation efforts to save the ancient species are critical.
The coelacanth isn’t the only animal that has been rediscovered since being “extinct” in its native habitat. For the first time in 23 years, a highly venomous sea snake was discovered in Australia in April.