A Fish Out of Time: The Search for the Coelacanth

Samantha Weinberg, Author, Estate Fourth, Author HarperCollins $24 (240p) ISBN 978-0-06-019495-6
Scientists had believed that coelacanths, five-foot-long fish with surprisingly limblike fins, existed on earth for approximately 330 million years, from 400 million years ago until they went extinct about 70 million years ago. To the world's surprise, however, a live one was discovered off the coast of South Africa in 1938. Here, British writer Weinberg presents a breezy, engaging account (previously published in the U.K.) of this ""living fossil,"" from the time it was first described in fossil form by the great paleontologist Louis Agassiz in 1839, to its rediscovery 100 years later, to the present. Because coelacanths had been presumed extinct for so long, because modern individuals appear so little changed from their fossilized relatives and because morphologically they appear to be an evolutionary link between fish and reptiles, perhaps on the path leading to humans, they have a great deal to tell the scientific community. Weinberg, while not focusing on the science, provides enough information to give nontechnical readers a flavor for the biological issues surrounding this primitive group of fish. Otherwise, she features the people most involved with rediscovering and studying coelacanths, as well as the national and scientific rivalries arising from the fish's fame. Filled with b&w photos, this book should appeal not only to cryptozoologists and naturalists, but to anyone interested in the living evolutionary record. Agent, Gillon Aitken. (May)
Reviewed on: 01/03/2000
Release date: 01/01/2000
Genre: Nonfiction
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