Scientists have captured the first ever pictures of baby â€˜living fossil' coelacanths.
Japanese marine researchers have found and successfully filmed the young fish at a depth of 528ft in Manado Bay off Sulawesi Island, Indonesia.
Video footage shows the 31cm long baby coelacanth, coloured blue with white spots, swimming slowly among rocks on the seabed for about 20 minutes.
Masamitsu Iwata, a researcher at Aquamarine Fukushima in Iwaki, northeast of Tokyo is quoted saying: “As far as we know, it was the first ever video image of a living juvenile coelacanth, which is still shrouded in mystery.”
These fish typically live at depths of 150- 700m so the researchers used a remotely operated, self-propelled vehicle to film the coelacanth. Scientists believe that this fish was newly born as a similar size pup was once found inside a pregnant coelacanth.
Coelacanths exist in fossil records back to 410 million years ago were thought to have been extinct for over 65 million years until a specimen was discovered swimming in the waters off Africa in 1938.
Up until the late 1990s, it was thought that there was only a single species of coelacanth Latimeria chalumnae found in the western Indian Ocean off the coast East Africa and the Comoro Islands.
However a PhD student studying coral reef ecology discovered a second species off the coast of Indonesia in 1997. This species Latimeria menadoensis, is the one identified off Sulawesi.
These grow up to 2 metres in length and can weigh up to 100kg. They live in deep water caves, reefs and volcanic slopes and because of this, relatively little is known about their breeding habits.
They are ovoviparous, giving birth to as many as 26 live pups which develop from huge eggs in the oviduct, feeding off a large yolk sac until birth.
Until this expedition young had only been observed twice in pregnant females and never swimming in the wild. Scientists hope the discovery will shed light on the habitat and breeding habits of coelacanths.