Giant coelacanths once thought extinct have been lurking in the ocean for hundreds of millions of years. However, the deep habitat and rarity of these fish have made them difficult to study. A new look at one of the species has now found out that it might live much longer than thought. According to researchers, these fish, originally thought to live for roughly 20 years, could easily last a century. Along with deep-sea sharks, this would make African coelacanths some of the slowest-growing fish of this size in the oceans.
What is known about these creatures fits with that they have low fecundity and slow metabolisms. They take their time reproducing & growing old, and it fits for a marine animal that lives in the deepest parts of the ocean. According to Marine Biologist Kelig Mahe from the IFREMER Institute in France, “Our most important finding is that the coelacanth’s age was underestimated by a factor of five. Our new age estimation allowed us to re-appraise the coelacanth’s body growth, which happens to be one of the slowest among marine fish of similar size, as well as other life-history traits, showing that the coelacanth’s life history is actually one of the slowest of all fish.”
He and his colleagues were able to study the biggest group of coelacanth specimens ever collected. There were 27 fish in a total of different ages up to what the team suspects are 84. They found that coelacanths around the age of 55 reach maturity, and to generate offspring takes around five years, based on two embryos included in the study. He further said the maximum longevity of coelacanth was five times longer than previously thought, hence around a century.
The lobe-finned coelacanth can grow 2 meters in length and is thought of as a living fossil for long. However, these species’ close relations have all died off. Recent research has challenged that idea, showing that the fish from the rest of the evolutionary tree isn’t quite as cut off as it was thought.
Earlier, another coelacanth study suggests that the massive fish borrow the genes from other underwater species over the years, and this process is known as horizontal gene transfer. It is one of the closest fish relations to humans.