19 April 2013

‘Finding Old Four Legs’– illustrated talk on capturing the first coelacanth

“Finding Old Four Legs – Illustrated talk commemorating the 75th anniversary of the capture of the first coelacanth” by Professor Mike Bruton

It started with an innocent phone call from a ship’s skipper to a young museum curator, but the story that unfolded shocked and thrilled scientists and lay people across the world.

An ancient fish, thought to be long extinct, had been discovered alive off the coast of South Africa!

Where else do they live?

How many are there?

What would it reveal about the past?

Could it be a mirror into the future?

As researchers unpicked its anatomy and puzzled about its bizarre biology and behaviour, they realised that they were studying an animal that had offered unique solutions to the challenges posed by evolution. The discovery of the coelacanth changed the face of ichthyology in South Africa and continues to reverberate around the world. Its rich and fascinating natural and cultural history has made it one of the best-known animals, yet both living species may now be threatened with extinction. Will this ancient survivor go the way of the dodo at the hand of man, or will it continue to be a beacon for marine research and conservation worldwide?

Join us for the telling of the greatest fishing story ever told, replete with heroes and villains, mysteries and intrigues!

Photo courtesy Wikipedia

Bio: Professor Mike Bruton first met the coelacanth in East London when he was 10 years old, and has been irrationally passionate about it ever since. As a student at Rhodes University, he met JLB and Margaret Smith, not knowing that his destiny would soon be entwined with theirs. After qualifying as an ichthyologist, and becoming Director of the then JLB Smith Institute of Ichthyology and subsequently Director of Education at the Two Oceans Aquarium, he launched a series of research initiatives on the coelacanth. He also mounted an intensive coelacanth conservation and awareness campaign worldwide. In 2008 Mike had the ultimate ichthyology experience when, at the invitation of Hans Fricke, he dived in the JAGO submersible to a depth of 198m off Grande Comoro Island and saw coelacanths alive in their natural environment. He has retained an active interest in “old four legs” through a network of international scientists, and recently found a coelacanth fossil on display in a museum in Bahrain, where he currently lives. 

DATE: Wednesday 8 May 2013
TIME: 18h30
VENUE: The Think Tank, Two Oceans Aquarium
BOOKINGS: members@aquarium.co.za

Seats are limited. Booking is essential.

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