The Coelacanth
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This model on display in the Museum’s Great Hall is based on a specimen in the Division's collections.

The fishes collection in the Yale Peabody Museum's Division of Vertebrate Zoology  includes 2 specimens of Latimeria, the coelcanth.

In the study of the natural history of fish, certain groups of fishes are of particular interest because they have remained virtually unchanged for millions of years and serve as living fossils, bridging the gap between fish and tetrapods. The exact relationship of many of these fish to the rest of the vertebrate family tree is debated, and often confusing. Some seem to be more closely related to amphibians than to other fish. Additionally, many have no close living relatives, so their placement within the tree of life is particularly difficult. Studies conducted at the Yale Peabody Museum by investigators, including Keith Stuart Thompson, have improved the understanding of the biology and evolutionary history of these unique fishes.



The evolutionary history of tetrapods (four-limbed) vertebrates includes critical stages and links between aquatic species and terrestrial species. Among the major species groups that may represent the junction between aquatic and terrestrial vertebrate life are the lungfish and the coelacanths.

Before the 1930s the coelacanth was known only from fossil specimens and was thought to be extinct. Its rediscovery in the Indian Ocean allowed for many significant studies of vertebrate evolution to occur. The Yale Peabody Museum has 2 specimens of coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae), collected from the Comoro Islands. One of them was of major importance to our understanding of this group of fish as it was probably the first available to researchers in the United States as an unpreserved specimen

The Yale Peabody Museum's collections are available to legitimate researchers for scholarly use. Loans are issued to responsible individuals at established institutions. Loans and access to the collection can be arranged through the Collections Manager.

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