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Ancient Creature of the Deep

Program Overview


NOVA chronicles the discovery of a "living fossil," a fish called the coelacanth that has remained relatively unchanged since prehistoric times.

The program:

  • recalls Darwin's prediction that some creatures would have not undergone any major adaptations due to selective pressures and would have remained relatively the same since prehistoric times.

  • relates the 1938 discovery of the coelacanth off the coast of South Africa by Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer.

  • tells the story of J.L.B. Smith, the scientist who identified Courtenay-Latimer's specimen as a coelacanth.

  • notes that many anatomical features of coelacanths have changed little since the Devonian period 400 million years ago.

  • examines the fossil record of the coelacanth.

  • relates the discovery of coelacanths around the Comoros Islands and near Indonesia.

  • compares the coelacanth to sharks and other types of fishes.

  • discusses the significance of the coelacanth in the study of evolution.

Teacher's Guide
Ancient Creature of the Deep
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