A paleontologist in Texas has identified a new species of coelacanth, an ancient fish most closely related to land-dwelling vertebrates, including humans. John Graf of Southern Methodist University says the pieces of the tiny fossil skull found recently near Fort Worth are 100 million years old, and represent a new family of this remarkably enduring fish.
Coelacanths have been around for 400 million years — one of the longest lineages in the animal kingdom — and their fossils have been found on every continent except Antarctica. Scientists thought they went extinct 70 million years ago, until fishermen off the African coast caught live specimens in 1938.
Modern coelacanths can grow to three meters. The newly identified species was probably no longer than 40 centimeters.
Graf named the new species Reidus hilli, in part for the amateur collector who discovered the coelacanth specimen, Robert Reid, who has been hunting fossils for decades.