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Once considered extinct, enormous coelacanths have been sneaking in the ocean for centuries of millions of years. The scarcity and deep habitat of these fish have made them complicated to investigate, but a brand-new look at one of a kind has now exposed it might exist much longer than we imagined. How long?

Well, these fish – formerly thought to survive for approximately 20 years – could comfortably endure a century, the researchers conclude. Moreover, it would make African coelacanths (Latimeria chalumnae) some of the slowest maturing fish of this capacity in the oceans, simultaneously with deep-sea sharks.

It corresponds with what we also know about these animals: they have sluggish metabolisms and moderate fecundity (they don’t typically produce many offspring very speedily). They take their time getting old and breeding, as seems befitting for a marine animal in the most mysterious, quietest parts of the ocean.

“Our most significant finding is that the coelacanth’s age was underestimated by a factor of five,” says marine biologist Kélig Mahé from the IFREMER Institute in France.

“Our new age estimation allowed us to re-appraise the coelacanth’s body growth, which happens to be one of the slowest among marine fish of similar size, as well as other life-history traits, showing that the coelacanth’s life history is actually one of the slowest of all fish.”

Mahé and his associates could study the most influential group of coelacanth specimens ever assembled – 27 fish in total, ranging life spans up to what the partners suspects are 84. They discovered that coelacanths reach maturity around 55 and that offspring reproduction takes around five years, based on two embryos involved in the research.

Earlier this year, another coelacanth study tells that the enormous fish has been acquiring genes from other marine species over the years through a method horizontal gene transfer. Thus, one of the most uncomfortable fish connections to humans, genetically speaking, could reflect light on our development.

These conclusions also highlight just how dangerous situation these are and the species is to become extinct – for indeed this time. Animals that develop and multiply slower are always more exposed to disappearing, and the researchers behind the modern study want to make sure that doesn’t happen.

- A word from our sposor -

This Giant ‘Living Fossil’ Fish Can Live For 100 Years, Deep in The Ocean!