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(Latimeria chalumnae), also known as coelacanth and East London coelacanth, a fish of the order Coelacanthini of the group of Crossopterygii fishes; the only known modern representative of this group. It differs from other crossoptery-gians by the secondary loss of internal nares, or choanae. The tail is three-lobed, and the paired fins have a short central axis. The head is transversely truncated in front; the scales are large and heavy. There is a cloaca and a spiral valve of the intestine. The body is sometimes more than 160 cm long and weighs over 80 kg. The females are somewhat larger than the males.
The latimeria is found in the Indian Ocean near the shores of southeastern Africa, primarily near the Comoro Islands. It feeds on other fishes. Apparently not a very motile fish, it uses its fins for swimming and for support on the bottom. The first living latimeria was caught in 1938 near the mouth of the Chalumna River; it was described by the ichthyologist J. L. Smith. Since then, about 20 specimens have been caught. Because the entire group of Crossopterygii was previously considered to be extinct since the Cretaceous period, the discovery of this species is of great interest.
G. V. NIKOL’SKII