Comoro Islands 2009 African Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) Postage Stamp
The Comoro Islands celebrated this living fossil, the African coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae), on their 300 Comorian franc postage stamp issued in 2009. This was one of several postage stamps issued by the Comoros Islands in 2009 that depicts the African coelacanth, including a 125 Comorian franc postage stamp and several different 450 Comorian franc postage stamps. The first postage stamp ever issued featuring the African coelacanth was a 40 franc stamp issued by the Coromo Islands in 1954. There were also other coelacanth postage stamps issued by the Coromo Islands in 1954, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1998, 1999 and 2006. The African coelacanth is an important symbol to the Coromo Islands, where more than 200 coelacanths have been captured in nearby waters.
The African Coelacanth, also known as the West Indian Ocean coelacanth, was once thought extinct and was first known from fossils dating back more than 300 million years. The African Coelacanth was rediscovered in the late 1930s in seas off South Africa. Since 1938, the African Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) has been found in the waters off the Comoros Islands, Kenya, Madagascar, Mozambique, and Tanzania, as well as South Africa.
The Comoro Islands are made up of the four major islands in the volcanic Comoros archipelago. These islands were formed by volcanic activity and contact several active volcanos. The Comoro Islands provide an ideal underwater habitat for the cave-dwelling coelacanths. The island’s underwater volcanic slopes form a system of caves and crevices. During the day, the African coelacanth will rest in these caves at depths exceeding 100 meters. Here the cooler waters reduces the African coelacanth’s metabolic activity and the caves offer protection from strong currents, both help this prehistoric fish conserve its energy. The caves presumably also offers this fish protection from potential predators.
The African coelacanth is a nocturnal piscivore, feeding at night, largely on benthic fish, which are numerous around the Coromo Islands. A night the African coelacanth comes out of its cave and drifts along the volcanic sands feeding on whatever prey fish that it encounters This is another energy conserving strategy used by the African coelacanth.
The African Coelacanth is a primitive lobe-finned fish reaching about five feet in length and weighing over one hundred pounds. Due to recent overfishing by local fisherman, this fish is a critically endangered species.