A Fish Caught in Time: The Search for the Coelacanth Paperback – 19 Aug 2011
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This witty account of the current state of play in the search for extant species of the coelacanth, the living fish which may be descended from the ancestors of all land life, starts, as it has to, with Marjorie Latimer, the curator of a small museum, who had been taught her palaeontology by very strict nuns. When a fisherman showed her an odd fish, she instantly recognised it as supposedly extinct for millions of years. Several years later, after endless promises of rewards, the first of many coelacanths was fished out of the sea round the Comoros--they were being thrown back since time immemorial because they are not good eating and have a strongly laxative effect. There followed an unedifying tale of national rivalry--South African and French skulduggery and national pride in dead fish--a risk of a final extinction caused by Chinese herbalists, and discoveries of more fish off Madagascar and Indonesia. Weinberg knows what is important and what is not, but does not let good stories go unnoticed all the same. Her command of the details is impressive--you come away knowing what the excitement was all about. The account is excellent and humane, if cute--and the cliffhangers about extinction and possible other habitats are exciting as well. --Roz Kaveney --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
'A fascinating tale that mixes scientific intrigue, international politics and adventures on the high seas' -- Gale Vines, Independent
'Garnished with great splashes of narrative colour and makes an excellent light holiday read.' -- Sara Wheeler, Daily Telegraph
'The discovery of the coelacanth, as told in Samantha Weinberg's thrilling new book, reads like some classic Spielberg creation - Indiana Jones let loose in a real-life Jurassic Park.' -- Philip Marsden, Mail on Sunday
'You'll probably learn more about prehistoric life from this amiable account than from a million well-intended, dust-encrusted copies of the Voyage of the Beagle.' -- Bella Bathurst, Scotsman
Top Customer Reviews
The Coelacanth specimen caught in 1938 led to the discovery of the first documented population, off the Comoros Islands, between Africa and Madagascar. For sixty years this was presumed to be the only Coelacanth population in existence.
Coelacanths were considered the "missing link" between the fish and the earliest four-limbed land animals, until the first living specimen was found. Living coelacanths turned out to have no lungs. This discovery 65 million years after they were believed to have gone extinct makes them arguably the most well-known example of a `Lazarus taxon', a species that appeared to have disappeared from the fossil record only to reappear much later. Since 1938, Coelacanths have been found in the Comoros, Indonesia, and elsewhere.
Today there is "a growing consensus among evolutionary biologists who have studied living specimens that Coelacanths are not missing links," says The Washington Post. The Post cites the British journal Nature, indicating that the "Coelacanth features putatively linking it to land animals are probably only coincidentally similar..."
Unfortunately though, having the whole thing on a plate in front of you, one often ends up accepting the story as no big deal, just the situation I found myself in. While my father eats and breaths the Coelacanth, quite frankly, I could not be bothered. Until now that is.
Reading the book, I was amazed at how much I did not know about the story. It is one of those books that I found very very difficult to put down once I had started. Many people will say that I am overdoing it, in which case, pick it up and try it yourself.
Samantha has managed to take a story that demands very little interest outside of the scientific world and turn it into an absolutely fantastic epic. Reading the book has taught me so much about a subject that I thought I knew already.
Well done Samantha, I'm sure that there are a lot more of these sort of subjects out there that could do with your writing abilities to generate interest in the non-scientific world.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Loved this book,inspired me to look into the coelacanth even more.Published 19 months ago by sulli09
There's a lot in this book, and also a lot that isn't. It is about the search for the Coelacanth and has very little about the beast itself, which is a shame.Published on 18 Mar. 2011 by Sam
If like me you go for fact over fiction I strongly recommend this book. I read it soon after it was published and can still recall vividly the pleasure of reading it. Read morePublished on 26 Oct. 2004 by Peter Gill
A thoroughly entertaining account of the remarkable story of the discovery of the coelacanth from the 1930s right up to the modern day. Read morePublished on 5 Jun. 2003 by Rob Sedgwick
Good history, good writing but anyone expecting a science book will be disappointed (but will still enjoy this book)Published on 22 April 2001 by RZL
This is an exciting and interesting read. It tells a gripping story of the people who hunted for the fish that many thought had died with the dinosaurs. Read morePublished on 6 Nov. 2000
from someone who doesn't care too much for science, this book has been an absolute gem. facinating and very well told. would recommend this book without reservation.Published on 14 July 2000
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