Scientists decode DNA of coelacanth, 'living fossil' fish

2:04 PM, Apr 17, 2013   |    comments
This 2008 image made available by the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History shows an African coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae).
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NEW YORK (AP) - Scientists have decoded the DNA of a celebrated "living fossil" fish, giving them new insights into how today's mammals, amphibians, reptiles and birds evolved from a fish ancestor.

Scientists used to think the African coelacanth died out 70 million years ago. But then a fish trawler caught one off the coast of South Africa in 1938.

The coelacanth is closely related to the fish lineage that started to move toward living on land. And it hasn't changed much from its ancestors of even 300 million years ago. The new research found its genes have been evolving remarkably slowly.

Researchers also reported Wednesday in the journal Nature that the animal's DNA code is already giving insights into the genetic changes needed to move from the water to life on land.

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