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The Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) at the Educational Science Museum, Kuwait City, State of Kuwait By: Prof. Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa On Sunday 22nd September 2013, I have visited, accompanied with my daughter Nora, the Educational Science Museum in Kuwait City, State of Kuwait. The Kuwait Educational Science Museum (Science and Natural History Museum) is located on Abdullah Al Mubarak Street, Kuwait City, State of Kuwait. The museum explores the country's technological and scientific progress and it contains big zoological collections, artifacts and demonstrations of the Petroleum industry in Kuwait.

The Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) at the Educational Science Museum, Kuwait City, State of Kuwait. 22.09.2013. Photo by: Prof. Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Khalaf-von Jaffa. http://www.flickr.com/photos/50022881@N00/10144921415/

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The museum is organized in the following departments: Natural History Department, Space Science Department, Planetarium, Electronics Department, Machinery Department, Zoology Department, Aviation Department and a Health hall (Wikipedia). One of the various Halls was the Fish Hall. It contains a big collection of local fishes, which was caught off the Arabian Gulf coast of Kuwait (Khalaf 1987). A Coelacanth Fish (Latimeria chalumnae Smith, 1939) is displayed at Hamad Mohammad Al-Atiqi (Museum Director 1972-1988) Hall. The Coelacanth was a gift from the Government of the Islamic Federal Republic of the Comoros to the then Kuwaiti Foreign Minister (and now the Emir of Kuwait) H.H. Al-Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, who in turn gave it as a gift to the Science and Natural History Museum in August 1976.

The Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) at the Educational Science Museum, Kuwait City, State of Kuwait. 22.09.2013. Photo by: Prof. Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Khalaf-von Jaffa. http://www.flickr.com/photos/50022881@N00/10144997653/ The Coelacanths constitute a rare order of fish that includes two extant species in the genus Latimeria: the West Indian Ocean coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae Smith, 1939) and the Indonesian coelacanth (Latimeria menadoensis Pouyaud, Wirjoatmodjo, Rachmatika, Tjakrawidjaja, Hadiaty & Hadie, 1999). They follow the oldest known living lineage of Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish and tetrapods), which means they are more closely related to lungfish, reptiles and mammals Gazelle : The Palestinian Biological Bulletin – Number 112 – April 2014


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than to the common ray-finned fishes. They are found along the coastlines of the Indian Ocean and Indonesia. Since there are only two species of coelacanth and both are threatened, it is the most endangered order of animals in the world. The West Indian Ocean coelacanth is a critically endangered species (Wikipedia, Khalaf 2014). Coelacanths belong to the subclass Actinistia, a group of lobed-finned fish related to lungfish and certain extinct Devonian fish such as osteolepiforms, porolepiforms, rhizodonts, and Panderichthys. Coelacanths were thought to have gone extinct in the Late Cretaceous, but were rediscovered in 1938 off the coast of South Africa. Traditionally, the coelacanth was considered a “living fossil” due to its apparent lack of significant evolution over the past millions of years; and the coelacanth was thought to have evolved into roughly its current form approximately 400 million years ago. However, several recent studies have shown that coelacanth body shapes are much more diverse than is generally said. In addition, it was shown recently that studies concluding that a slow rate of molecular evolution is linked to morphological conservatism in coelacanths are biased on the prior hypothesis that these species are “living fossils” (Wikipedia, Khalaf 2014). "Coelacanth" is an adaptation of Modern Latin Cœlacanthus "hollow spine," from Greek κοῖλ-ος koilos "hollow" + ἄκανθ-α akantha "spine," referring to the hollow caudal fin rays of the first fossil specimen described and named by Louis Agassiz in 1836 (Wikipedia). The coelacanths, which are related to lungfishes and tetrapods, were believed to have been extinct since the end of the Cretaceous period. More closely related to tetrapods than even the ray-finned fish, coelacanths were considered transitional species between fish and tetrapods. The first Latimeria specimen was found off the east coast of South Africa, off the Chalumna River (now Tyolomnqa) in 1938. Museum curator Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer discovered the fish among the catch of a local angler, Captain Hendrick Goosen, on 23 December 1938. A local chemistry professor, J.L.B. Smith, confirmed the fish's importance with a famous cable: "MOST IMPORTANT PRESERVE SKELETON AND GILLS = FISH DESCRIBED" (Wikipedia). The discovery of a species still living, when they were believed to have gone extinct 65 million years previously, makes the coelacanth the best-known example of a Lazarus taxon, an evolutionary line that seems to have disappeared from the fossil record only to reappear much later. Since 1938, Latimeria chalumnae have been found in the Comoros, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar, and in iSimangaliso Wetland Park, KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa (Wikipedia). The second extant species, Latimeria menadoensis, was described from Manado, North Sulawesi, Indonesia in 1999 by Pouyaud et al. based on a specimen Gazelle : The Palestinian Biological Bulletin – Number 112 – April 2014


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discovered by Mark V. Erdmann in 1998 and deposited at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI). Only a photograph of the first specimen of this species was made at a local market by Erdmann and his wife Arnaz Mehta before it was bought by a shopper (Wikipedia).

The Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) at the Educational Science Museum, Kuwait City, State of Kuwait. 22.09.2013. Photo by: Prof. Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Khalaf-von Jaffa. http://www.flickr.com/photos/50022881@N00/10145077603/ The coelacanth has no real commercial value, apart from being coveted by museums and private collectors. As a food fish the coelacanth is almost worthless, as its tissues exude oils that give the flesh a foul flavor. The continued survival of the coelacanth may be threatened by commercial deep-sea trawling, in which coelacanths are caught as bycatch (Wikipedia). Coelacanths are a part of the clade Sarcopterygii, or the lobe-finned fishes. Externally, there are several characteristics that distinguish the coelacanth from other lobe-finned fish. They possess a three-lobed caudal fin, also called a trilobite fin or a diphycercal tail. A secondary tail that goes along and extends past the primary tail separates the upper and lower halves of the coelacanth. Cosmoid scales act as thick armor that protects the exterior of the coelacanth. There also are several internal traits that aid in differentiating coelacanths from other lobe-finned fish. At the back of the skull, the coelacanth possesses a hinge, Gazelle : The Palestinian Biological Bulletin – Number 112 – April 2014


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the intracranial joint, which allows it to open its mouth extremely wide. Coelacanths also retain a notochord, a hollow, pressurized tube which is replaced by the vertebral column early in embryonic development in most other vertebrates. The heart of the coelacanth is shaped differently from that of most modern fish; the heart's chambers are arranged in a straight tube. The coelacanth braincase is 98.5% filled with fat; only 1.5% of the braincase contains brain tissue. The cheeks of the coelacanths are unique because the opercular bone is very small and holds a large soft-tissue opercular flap. The coelacanth also possesses a unique rostral organ within the ethmoid region of the braincase. Also unique to extant coelacanths is the presence of a "fatty lung" or a fat-filled single-lobed vestigial lung (Wikipedia).

Prof. Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf-von Jaffa standing beside the Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) at the Educational Science Museum, Kuwait City, State of Kuwait. 22.09.2013. Photo by: Nora Norman Ali Khalaf. http://www.flickr.com/photos/50022881@N00/10382072074/ Latimeria chalumnae and Latimeria menadoensis are the only two known living coelacanth species. The word coelacanth is derived from the Greek for “hollow spine”, because of its unique hollow spine fins. Coelacanths are large, plump, lobe-finned fish that grow up to 1.8 meters. They are nocturnal piscivorous drifthunters. The body is covered in cosmoid scales that act as armor. Coelacanths have 8 fins – 2 dorsal fins, 2 pectoral fins, 2 pelvic fins, 1 anal fin, and 1 caudal fin. The tail is very nearly equally proportioned and is split by a terminal tuft of fin rays that make up the caudal lobe of the tail. The eyes of the coelacanth are Gazelle : The Palestinian Biological Bulletin – Number 112 – April 2014


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very large, while the mouth is very small. The eye is acclimatized to seeing in poor light by having rods that absorb mostly low wavelengths. The vision of coelacanths has evolved to a mainly blue-shifted color capacity. Pseudomaxillary folds surround the mouth, which replace the maxilla, a structure that is absent in coelacanths. There are two nostrils along with four other external openings that appear between the premaxilla and lateral rostral bones. The nasal sacs resemble those of many other fish and do not contain an internal nostril. The rostral organ of the coelacanth is contained within the ethmoid region of the braincase. It has three unguarded openings into the environment. The rostral organ is used as a part of the coelacanth's laterosensory system. The coelacanth's auditory reception is mediated by its inner ear. The inner ear of the coelacanth is very similar to that of tetrapods because it is classified as being a basilar papilla (Wikipedia). Locomotion of the coelacanths is unique to their kind. To move around, coelacanths most commonly take advantage of up or down-wellings of the current and drift. They use their paired fins to stabilize their movement through the water. While on the ocean floor, they do not use their paired fins for any kind of movement. Coelacanths can create thrust for quick starts by using their caudal fins. Due to the high number of fins it possesses, the coelacanth has high maneuverability and can orient its body in almost any direction in the water. They have been seen doing headstands and swimming belly up. It is thought that their rostral organ helps give the coelacanth electroperception, which aids in their movement around obstacles (Wikipedia). A group led by Chris Amemiya and Neil Shubin published the genome sequence of the coelacanth in the journal “Nature”. The African coelacanth genome was sequenced and assembled using DNA from a Comoros Islands Latimeria chalumnae specimen. It was sequenced by Illumina sequencing technology and assembled using the short read genome assembler ALLPATHSLG (Wikipedia). The vertebrate land transition is one of the most important steps in our evolutionary history. We conclude that the closest living fish to the tetrapod ancestor is the lungfish, not the coelacanth. However, the coelacanth is critical to our understanding of this transition, as the lungfish have intractable genome sizes (estimated at 50–100 GB) (Wikipedia). According to genetic analysis of current species, the divergence of coelacanths, lungfish, and tetrapods is thought to have occurred 390 million years ago. Coelacanths were thought to have undergone extinction 65 million years ago during the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event. The first recorded coelacanth fossil was found in Australia and was of a coelacanth jaw that dated back 360 million years, named Eoachtinistia foreyi. The most recent species of coelacanth in the fossil record is the Macropoma. Macropoma, a sister species to Latimeria Gazelle : The Palestinian Biological Bulletin – Number 112 – April 2014


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chalumnae, is separated by 80 million years. The fossil record of the coelacanth is unique because coelacanth fossils were found 100 years before the first live specimen was identified. In 1938, Courtenay-Latimer rediscovered the first live specimen, Latimeria chalumnae, which was caught off of the coast of East London, South Africa. In 1997, a marine biologist was on a honeymoon and discovered the second live species, Latimeria menadoensis in an Indonesian market. In July 1998, the first live specimen of Latimeria menadoensis was caught in Indonesia. Approximately 80 species of coelacanth have been described, including the two extant species. Before the discovery of a live coelacanth specimen, the coelacanth time range was thought to have spanned from the Middle Devonian to the Upper Cretaceous period. Although fossils found during that time were claimed to demonstrate a similar morphology, recent studies pointed out that coelacanth morphological conservatism is a belief that is not based on data (Wikipedia).

Prof. Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf-von Jaffa and his daughter Nora Norman Ali Khalaf in front of the Educational Science Museum, Kuwait City, State of Kuwait. 22.09.2013. http://www.flickr.com/photos/50022881@N00/10382502656/

References and Internet Websites: Association for the Preservation of the Coelacanth. http://gombessa.tripod.com/ Gazelle : The Palestinian Biological Bulletin – Number 112 – April 2014


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Attenborough, David (1979). Life on Earth. Collins, London, Glasgow, Sydney, Auckland, Toronto, Johannesburg, and the British Broadcasting Corporation, London. 319 pp. Blancpain. Project Gombessa. http://www.blancpain.com/projet-gombessa Coelacanth News! http://www.dinofish.com/news.html Goldsmith, N. F. & Yanai-Inbar, I. (1997). Coelacanthid in Israel’s Early Miocene? Latimeria tests Schaeffer’s theory. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 17 (supp. 3), 49A. Gombessa Coelacanth Expedition. http://www.saiab.ac.za/saiabnews/gombessa-coelacanth-expedition.htm Holder, Mark T.; Mark V. Erdmann, Thomas P. Wilcox, Roy L. Caldwell, and David M. Hillis (1999). Two living species of coelacanths? Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 1999 October 26; 96(22): 12616–12620. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC23015/ Khalaf, Norman Ali Bassam (Zoology, Second Year) (1982). Samak Al-Coelacanth (The Coelacanth Fish). Al-Biology Magazine. Number 2, February 1982, Biological Society, Kuwait University, State of Kuwait. pp.14-15. (In Arabic). http://issuu.com/drnormanalibassamkhalaf/docs/coelacanth_fish_al_biology_magazine Khalaf, Norman Ali Bassam (1987). The Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) in the Science and Natural History Museum, State of Kuwait. Gazelle: The Palestinian Biological Bulletin. Number 15. Fifth Year, July 1987, Thul Qi’dah 1407 AH. Rilchingen-Hanweiler, Federal Republic of Germany. pp. 1-8. http://quastenflosser.webs.com/coelacanthkuwait.htm Khalaf-von Jaffa, Norman Ali Bassam (2005). Der Komoren-Quastenflosser (Latimeria chalumnae) und der Manado-Quastenflosser (Latimeria menadoensis). Gazelle: The Palestinian Biological Bulletin. Number 38, Twenty Third Year. February 2005. Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. pp. 1-8. http://quastenflosser.webs.com/ Khalaf-von Jaffa, Norman Ali (Gründer) (seit Juni 2005). Der Quastenflosser: Coelacanth Latimeria Yahoo! Deutschland Group. http://de.groups.yahoo.com/group/Quastenflosser/ Khalaf-von Jaffa, Norman Ali (2005). Aquatica Arabica. An Aquatic Scientific Journey in Palestine, Arabia and Europe between 1980 - 2005 / Aquatica Arabica. Eine Aquatische Wissenschaftliche Reise in Palästina, Arabien und Europa zwischen 1980 - 2005. ISBN 3-00-014835-3. Erste Auflage / First Edition, August 2005: 376 Seiten / Pages. Self-Publisher: Norman Ali Khalaf, RilchingenHanweiler, Bundesrepublik Deutschland & Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. http://dr-norman-ali-khalaf-books.webs.com/aquaticaarabica.htm Khalaf-von Jaffa, Norman Ali (2005). The Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) in the Science and Natural History Museum, State of Kuwait. In : Aquatica Arabica. An Aquatic Scientific Journey in Palestine, Arabia and Europe between 1980 - 2005 / Aquatica Arabica. Eine Aquatische Wissenschaftliche Reise in Palästina, Arabien Gazelle : The Palestinian Biological Bulletin – Number 112 – April 2014


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und Europa zwischen 1980 - 2005. ISBN 3-00-014835-3. Erste Auflage / First Edition, August 2005, pp. 110-117. Self-Publisher: Norman Ali Khalaf, Rilchingen-Hanweiler, Bundesrepublik Deutschland & Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. Khalaf, Dr. Norman Ali (Zoologist) (2011). A note on the Coelacanth of Kuwait. Readers’ Letters, National Geographic Al Arabiya Magazine. April 2011, Volume 2, Number 7, pp. 8. (In Arabic). http://www.flickr.com/photos/50022881@N00/10122383976/ Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa, Prof. Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher (2013). † Coelacanthus sharjah Khalaf, 2013 : A New Coelacanth Fish Fossil Species from Sharjah Natural History and Botanical Museum, Sharjah, Emirate of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. Gazelle: The Palestinian Biological Bulletin. ISSN 0178 6288. Number 106, October 2013, Thu Al Hijja 1434 AH. pp. 18–38. Dubai and Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. http://quastenflosser.webs.com/coelacanthussharjah.htm Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa, Prof. Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher (2013). Taxon Profile: Species Sharjah Coelacanth Coelacanthus sharjah Khalaf, 2013. BioLib. Biological Library. http://www.biolib.cz/en/taxon/id1068520/ Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa, Prof. Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher (2013). Sharjah Coelacanth († Coelacanthus sharjah Khalaf, 2013). EOL. Encyclopedia of Life. http://eol.org/collections/95987/ Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa, Prof. Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher (2014). A Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) Model at the Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig in Bonn, Germany. Gazelle: The Palestinian Biological Bulletin. ISSN 0178 - 6288. Number 111, March 2014, Jumada Al Oula 1435 AH. pp. 1–9. Dubai and Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. http://quastenflosser.webs.com/coelacanthmuseumkoenig.htm Khalaf-Sakerfalke von Jaffa, Prof. Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Ali Taher (2014). The Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) at the Educational Science Museum, Kuwait City, State of Kuwait. Gazelle: The Palestinian Biological Bulletin. ISSN 0178 - 6288. Number 112, April 2014, Jumada Al Akhera 1435 AH. pp. 1–10. Dubai and Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. http://quastenflosser.webs.com/coelacanthkuwait2013.htm Pouyaud, Laurent; Wirjoatmodjo, Soetikno; Rachmatika, Ike; Tjakrawidjaja, Agus; Hadiaty, Renny; Hadie, Wartono (1999). Une nouvelle espèce de coelacanthe. Preuves génétiques et morphologiques. A new species of coelacanth. Comptes rendus de l'Académie des sciences - Série III - Sciences de la vie / Life Sciences - 1999, 322, 261-267. www.elsevier.fr/html/news/cras3mars99/pouyaud.html Smith, J.L.B. (1939). A surviving fish of the order Actinistia. Trans. R. Soc. S. Afr. 27: 47-50. Smith, J.L.B. (1940). A living coelacanthid fish from South Africa. Trans. R. Soc. S. Afr. 28: 1-106. Gazelle : The Palestinian Biological Bulletin – Number 112 – April 2014


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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. The Coelacanth: More Living than Fossil. http://vertebrates.si.edu/fishes/coelacanth/coelacanth_wider.html Vorobjeva, E.I. and Obruchev, D.V. (1967). Subclass Sarcopterygii, pp. 480-498. In: Obruchev, D.V. (ed.). Fundamentals of Palaeontology, 11, Jerusalem: Israel Program for Scientific Translations. Wikipedia. Coelacanth. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coelacanth Wikipedia. Comoro Islands. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comoro_Islands Wikipedia. Indonesian Coelacanth. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indonesian_coelacanth Wikipedia. Kuwait Science and Natural History Museum. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuwait_Science_and_Natural_History_Museum Wikipedia. Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabah_Al-Ahmad_Al-Jaber_Al-Sabah Wikipedia. West Indian Ocean Coelacanth. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Indian_Ocean_coelacanth Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig. http://www.museumkoenig.de/

Prof. Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam Khalaf-von Jaffa and his daughter Nora Norman Ali Khalaf in front of the Educational Science Museum, Kuwait City, State of Kuwait. 22.09.2013.http://www.flickr.com/photos/50022881@N00/10382521966/ Gazelle : The Palestinian Biological Bulletin – Number 112 – April 2014

The Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) at the Educational Science Museum, Kuwait City, State of Kuwait  

The Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) at the Educational Science Museum, Kuwait City, State of Kuwait. By: Prof. Dr. Sc. Norman Ali Bassam A...

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