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The Coelacanth: An Odd Fish



Co Authors:

Eric Ribbens
Department of Biological Sciences
Western Illinois University
E-Ribbens@wiu.edu

Robert H. Grant
Editorial Department
The Scientist
info@the-scientist.com

Abstract:

This "clicker case" is a redesign of a case, also in our collection, by Robert H. Grant titled "A Strange Fish Indeed: The 'Discovery' of a Living Fossil." The case follows the story of Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer and her discovery of the coelacanth, a fish of considerable evolutionary interest. It uses the story as a springboard to explore evolutionary concepts and the scientific method. It has been reformatted to use student personal response systems (“clickers”) and a PowerPoint presentation (~4.2MB), and further emphasizes the role of Ms. Courtenay-Latimer. The case is designed for large introductory biology courses.

Objectives:
  • Explore the excitement of discovering a new species.
  • Present the concept of "living fossils."
  • Encourage students to think about what should be done next.
Keywords: Coelacanth; Latimeria chalumnae; missing link; phylogeny; derived characteristic; evolution; extinction; fossil record; lobe-finned; ray-finned; fish; ichthyology; J.L.B. Smith; Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer; East London Museum; South Africa
Topical Area: History of science, Scientific method, Women in science
Educational Level: High school, Undergraduate lower division
Formats: PDF, PowerPoint
Type/Method: Clicker, Interrupted
Language: English
Subject Headings: Biology (General)   Evolutionary Biology   Paleontology   Zoology  
Date Posted: 11/16/09
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

Teaching Notes


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Videos

The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.

  Animated Life: The Living Fossil Fish
This animated short film tells the engaging tale of the discovery of the coelacanth. In 1938, South African museum curator Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer came across a strange blue fin poking out of a pile of fish. With its fleshy, lobed fins and its tough armored scales, the coelacanth did not look like any other fish that exists today. The coelacanth belongs to a lineage that has remained virtually unchanged for hundreds of millions of years, earning it the description of a "living fossil." Running time: 7:18 min. Produced by: HHMI BioInteractive, 2016.

  Click and Learn: Great Transitions Interactive - The Origin of Tetrapods
The fossils of transitional creatures were key evidence for Darwin’s evolutionary theory, but none had been found when he published On the Origin of Species. Now, there are many examples of such fossils, which clearly show that big evolutionary leaps consist of many smaller steps. This self-paced "Click and Learn" activity explores transitional forms with features of both fish and tetrapods, and shows the progression of anatomical changes from reconstructed fossil skeletons. Produced by: HHMI BioInteractive, 2015.




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