Coelacanth DNA May Tell How Fish Learned to Walk

April 17, 2013 5:07 PM

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Coelacanth DNA May Tell How Fish Learned to Walk

Often called a living fossil, the coelacanth (pronounced SEE-luh-canth) was long believed to have fallen extinct some 70 million years ago, until a specimen was recognized in a fish market in South Africa in 1908. The coelacanth has fleshy, lobed fins that look somewhat like limbs, as does the lungfish, an air-breathing freshwater fish. The coelacanth and the lungfish have long been battling for the honor of which is closer to the ancestral fish that first used its fins to walk on land and give rise to the tetrapods, meaning all vertebrate animals, from reptiles and birds to mammals.

The decoding of the coelacanth genome, reported online Wednesday in the journal Nature, is a victory for the lungfish as the closer relative to the first tetrapod. But the coelacanth may have the last laugh because its genome — which, at 2.8 billion units of DNA, is about the same size as a human ge...

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