Coelacanth spotted near Sodwana Bay

Posted by Gabrielle Jacobs on 17 May 2019

Exciting footage of a coelacanth, a living fossil, has been captured by researchers on an expedition this week, off the coast of Sodwana Bay in KwaZulu-Natal.

In a social media statement by the WILDOCEANS Programme, the Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife Parks manager Jabulani Ngubane reported back on the marvellous experience when he tagged along on the research expedition to gain a deeper understanding of the researchers’ work in the ocean. With the crew, he boarded a remote operated vehicle (ROV), the Angra Pequena, and witnessed something very special.

A few hours into the expedition, the crew spotted a coelacanth in a cave, at a depth of 125 metres below the ocean’s surface. This fish was once thought to have gone extinct millions of years ago with the dinosaurs.

According to WILDOCEANS and Ngubane, the expedition seeks to ‘understand the deep canyons that incise the east coast’, with the ROV supplied by the African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme and piloted by Ryan Palmer of the South African Institute of Aquatic Biodiversity.

‘Seeing the coelacanth electrified everyone on board – the experience was extraordinary and special. I realise what a privilege it was for me to be there and see it,’ Ngubane said. ‘I also think an experience like this reminds everyone why they do the work they do.’

‘Dr Kerry Sink of the South African National Biodiversity Institute, who maintains an identification catalogue for the coelacanths seen to date, was aboard and identified the fish as Eric, one of the 33 fish that has been catalogued and he was last seen in 2013,’ said Dr Jean Harris of WILDOCEANS. ‘This will give us insight into their life span and them being resident in the caves.’

Image by via @WILDOCEANSSA

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