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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.