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A Strange Fish Indeed: The "Discovery" of a Living Fossil


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Through a series of fictionalized diary entries, this case recounts the 1939 discovery by Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer (and identification by J.L.B. Smith) of a living coelacanth, a fish believed to have been extinct for 70 million years.

Grant, Robert

Grade level:

50-90 min.

Teaching tips:
Use this resource to relate evolutionary concepts to the topic of the nature and process of science (or get more suggestions for incorporating evolution throughout your biology syllabus).

Correspondence to the Next Generation Science Standards is indicated in parentheses after each relevant concept. See our conceptual framework for details.

  • Biological evolution accounts for diversity over long periods of time.

  • There are similarities and differences among fossils and living organisms.

  • Similarities among existing organisms (including morphological, developmental, and molecular similarities) reflect common ancestry and provide evidence for evolution.

  • Random factors can affect the survival of individuals and of populations.

  • A hallmark of science is exposing ideas to testing.

  • Our knowledge of the evolution of living things is always being refined as we gather more evidence.

  • Classification is based on evolutionary relationships.

Teacher background:

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