Referred to as a 'living fossil', the coelacanth has barely changed at all in over 300 million years.
Thought to have become extinct during the Cretaceous period, the coelacanth amazed everyone when a live specimen was caught off the coast of South Africa in 1938. More amazing still was the fact that despite being around for millions of years the species shows very little in the way of evolutionary change. The term 'living fossil' was coined to describe creatures that fit in to this category.
To learn more about the coelacanth, an international team of scientists has managed to sequence the animal's genome which contains almost three billion DNA bases. "What we can see is that while the genome as a whole changes, the protein-coding genes - that make the living fish - are much more stable and much more unchanging," said Professor Kerstin Lindblad-Toh. "It lives several hundred metres down in the ocean, and it may also be in an environment where it doesn't have a lot of competitors. So maybe it adapted to that environment a long time ago and it doesn't have a huge need for change."
"The genetic secrets of a "living fossil" have been revealed by scientists."
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Source: BBC News
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