New coelacanth book to keep legendary story alive

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ON SATURDAY (November 18), Mike Bruton launched The Annotated Old Fourlegs: The Updated Story of the Coelacanth at the East London Museum.

Bruton said it was apt to launch the book at the East London Museum as that is where the first living coelacanth was researched and is still kept. The East London-born professor and biologist said the book brings the “legendary story” back to life.

FISHY TALE: Mike Bruton is joined by Marlea Reid, left, and Tarryn Cloete from Bargain Books in Beacon Bay for the launch of ‘The Annotated Old Fourlegs: The Updated Story of the Coelacanth’ on Saturday. Bargain Books organised the launch Picture: ETHIENNE ARENDS

“The discovery of the first living coelacanth brought our city [East London] to the world and put us on the map. It is for this reason that I want to keep the story alive for the next generation as it is something all East Londoners should know,” Bruton said.

The fish was discovered by late East London Museum curator Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer.

He said he is launching his book this year as next year is the 50th anniversary of the death of JLB Smith, the South African ichthyologist and university professor who first identified a taxidermied fish as a coelacanth – at the time thought long extinct.

The book is a new version of Smith’s book, bringing the introduction, conclusion and various sections of the book up to date.

Bruton described the discovery of a living coelacanth as “one of the greatest science stories of all time”.

“The discovery of a fish that was thought to be extinct with the dinosaurs was remarkable and provided a window into the past. Scientists were able to study and put together a fossil,” Bruton said.

“But it is more than this – it became a cultural thing too. The coelacanth was used in art and even on money. It became the symbol of marine conservation.”

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