Coelacanths are called living fossils. It is called this because it has been continued in the same form from ancient times to the present day. But a new study shows that coelacanths can live to be 100 years old.
In studies so far, coelacanths have been thought to have a lifespan of about 20 years due to their rapid growth and rapid spawning. However, when observing coelacanths that live in the wild, they found that they lived longer, and a study published in the journal Current Biology revealed that they were as long as 100 years old.
The coelacanth was a fossil fish that was considered extinct during the Cretaceous Period. However, in 1938, the local or not in South Africa brought up a strange fish, which gave a huge shock to the academia. The strange fish, which had midnight blue and pearly white glossy scales, was first sampled by a museum employee, who said it was a starlight pattern. This is the discovery of a living coelacanth. These starlight scales were the key to revealing the lifespan of the coelacanth this time.
The research team began investigating how long coelacanths live. It started as a side project due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but an unexpected discovery is made. Coelacanth scales, like tree rings, grow rings every year, so you can find out their lifespan here. The research team received coelacanth scales by mail from several research institutes in Germany and France and examined the scale rings under a microscope and polarized light.
As a result, a new fact discovered is that the lifespan of the coelacanth is close to 100 years, five times longer than previously thought. Not only this. They can spend up to 5 years in the womb. It was recorded as the longest gestation period in a mammal. The longest record holder so far is an elephant at 22 months. Moreover, it cannot be called an adult until 45 years have passed since birth.
When you look at the large and elongated shape of the coelacanth, you might think that it is moving slowly, but in fact, it makes an incredibly sharp turn. It has more fins than regular fish, and genetic analysis suggests that it is close to mammals, reptiles, birds, and tetrapods such as amphibians.
The research team found that coelacanths become adults only when they reach the age of 50, and animal maturity is determined by body growth, body length and reproductive abilities, but in the case of coelacanths, the period when human hair appears gray and requires a magnifying glass is the fully mature period.
Short-lived animals reproduce quickly and die quickly. This is the case with everything we live in a human-dominated society. Long, slow-living animals such as elephants and whales are exposed to human danger. In other words, the fact that the coelacanths lived that long in this study’s presentation means that the possibility of extinction is very high. Related information can be found here.