We've just added a new interactive exhibit to the Two Oceans Aquarium: A journey through the discovery of the world's most famous living fossil 80 years ago - the coelacanth.

We've worked with the world's leading ocean scientists, deep-water explorers and our own creative geniuses to bring you this incredible insight into South Africa's favourite dinosaur fish. Be sure to check it out on your next Aquarium visit.

Filled with hidden nooks, interactive buttons and audiovisual insights into key events in the history of the coelacanth's discovery - this new exhibit is sure to pique your curiosity.

Coelacanths were thought to be extinct for 66 million years, when in 1938 a fluke discovery was made in an East London fish market by Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer - a beautiful fish, the likes of which had never been seen before by human eyes.

“I picked away at the layers of slime to reveal the most beautiful fish I had ever seen. It was five feet (150 cm) long, a pale mauvy blue with faint flecks of whitish spots; it had an iridescent silver-blue-green sheen all over. It was covered in hard scales, and it had four limb-like fins and a strange puppy dog tail.” – Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer

This hastily sketched fish and excitedly handwritten note would go on to change the world of marine science forever.

The search for the origin of the coelacanth became an obsession for local ichthyologist JLB Smith who, after a 14-year search, a frantic late-night phone call to South African Prime Minister DF Malan, and the commissioning of a SADF military aircraft, was able to collect, intact, the world's second coelacanth specimen discovered in the Comores.

RING RING! It's for you. Hear the worlds of JLB Smith himself as he recounts his first ever encounter with the coelacanth.

The discovery of these specimens has since fuelled a global search to find and protect the habitat of these precious living fossils. Teams of scuba divers and mini-submarine operators have since had the opportunity to study coelacanths in their natural habitats from Sodwana Bay to Grand Comoro.

St Joseph sharks, hagfish and horseshoe crabs - meet the Two Oceans Aquarium's other living fossils in person.

These researchers have shared more than 80 years of first-hand coelacanth experience and footage with us for this new display.

We have the coelacanth facts that you've always wanted to know - and a few that you probably didn't!

“My favourite part of this exhibit design was learning about the unique characteristics of this ancient fish. This allowed me to explore creative ways to get the information across various new platforms. My goal was to reach people of all ages and find unique ways for them to interact with the information and ultimately enhance the visitor experience. Our amazing workshop team were invaluable to the process and after many late nights, I hope that we have been able to portray the coelacanth story in a fun and interactive way. ” – Jessica Sloan, Two Oceans Aquarium Graphic Designer

Two Oceans Aquarium staff have been hard at work to bring you this new celebration of South Africa's favourite living fossil. From exciting deepwater video footage and interactive "touch" activities to hidden pockets containing coelacanth inspired African artefacts and a phone call with JLB Smith, the passion and creativity that went into this exhibit are clear.

“For me, the best part of working on this display was researching the animation, working with Mike Bruton and Kerry Sink who have first-hand knowledge and personal experience of the history and actual living fish in our colony right now. Their anecdotal stories where by far the coolest. And then of course putting it together with our team. ” – Claire Taylor, Two Oceans Aquarium Curator of Exhibits

Every corner of this wall has a secret that can reveal even more about the coelacanth and its African story.

This project could not have been carried out without the special team people from all walks of life that contributed:

A huge thank-you to Prof Mike Bruton, author of The Amazing Coelacanth and The Fishy Smiths, who not only consulted on this exhibit, but contributed the annotated books and coelacanth artefacts that are on display.

Thank you Dr Kerry Sink of the SANBI’s African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme for providing so much insight into these incredible animals, identifying coelacanths (and friends) by name in these photographs and just generally being awesome.

Sally Schramm, Rogers and the rest of the incredible team at SAIAB were incredibly helpful in providing scientific information, imagery and helping to ensure that the reconstructions and graphics were as accurate as possible.

Thank you to the SABC and William Smith for the permission, provision and support to use historical footage and recordings of JLB Smith (and for blowing our minds that there are two South African legends in the Smith family).

The culmination of a massive collaborative effort - thank you everybody involved!

The amazing bronze reconstructions of coelacanth scales were produced by Otto du Plessis of Bronze Age Art Foundry. Surgical implants used to simulate the coelacanth egg were donated by Ansu Meintjies of Conquest.

Thanks to Struik Nature and Penguin Random House SA for providing incredible imagery, and for the passion shown by the New Creation Collective who were hired to design the animated element.

And last but not least, thank you to the team of Aquarium staff who worked tirelessly behind the scenes of our Curatorial and Workshop departments to bring the mighty coelacanth to light.

Be sure to experience the world of the coelacanth on your next Two Oceans Aquarium visit.

Coelacanths are an African story - one that we would love to share with you.

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