Indonesian fisherman nets ancient fish

MANADO, Indonesia Mon May 21, 2007 6:53am BST

Indonesian fisherman Yustinus Lahama holds up a coelacanth, an ancient fish once thought to have become extinct at the time of the dinosaurs, in a quarantine pool after he caught it in the sea off North Sulawesi province May 19, 2007. REUTERS/Stringer

Indonesian fisherman Yustinus Lahama holds up a coelacanth, an ancient fish once thought to have become extinct at the time of the dinosaurs, in a quarantine pool after he caught it in the sea off North Sulawesi province May 19, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

MANADO, Indonesia (Reuters) - An Indonesian fisherman has caught a coelacanth, an ancient fish once thought to have become extinct at the time of the dinosaurs, a fishery expert said on Monday.

Yustinus Lahama and his son caught the fish on Saturday in the sea off North Sulawesi province and kept it at their house for an hour, said Grevo Gerung, a professor at the fisheries faculty at the Sam Ratulangi University.

After being told by neighbours it was a rare fish he took it back to the sea and kept it in a quarantine pool for about 17 hours before it died.

"If kept outside their habitat (60 metres or 200 ft below the sea), the fish can only live for two hours. But this fish lived for about 17 hours," Gerung told Reuters.

"We will look into why it had lived that long," he said.

The fish was 131 centimetres (about four feet) long and weighed 51 kg (112 lb), Gerung said.

In 1998, fishermen a caught another coelacanth in a deep-water shark net off northern Sulawesi.

That catch came 60 years after a member of the species was rediscovered on the east coast of South Africa.

Coelacanths are known from the fossil records dating back more than 360 million years, according to the Australian Museum Fish Web site.

Before 1938 they were believed to have become extinct approximately 80 million years ago, when they disappeared from the fossil record, it said.

Coelacanths are the only living animals to have a fully functional intercranial joint, which is a division separating the ear and brain from the nasal organs and eye.