Skip to main content

Silver coelacanths from Spain are not proofs of a Pre-scientific Discovery


In 1964 and 1965, two silver fish pendants depicting coelacanths and thought to be religious votive from Spanish churches were purchased on the art market in Spain, dated between the 17th and late 19th century, long before the discovery for science of the living coelacanth in 1938. It was speculated that they originated either from the Mediterranean, subtropical Atlantic, or subtropical Pacific (de Sylva 1966, Bruton 1985, Anonymous 1993, Greenwell 1994, Raynold & Mangiacopra 1995). Some authors believe that the silver fish pendants represent a new species of coelacanthiforms (Raynold & Mangiacopra 1995), others claimed the pendants to be only a wishful fantasy of scientists and not coelacanths at all (Thomson 1991). However, new studies revealed that the silver fish artefacts are indeed coelacanths but were in fact produced more recently with the Comorian coelacanth, Latimeria chalumnae, as a model.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  • Anonymous, 1993. Des coelacanthes dans le golfe du Mexique? Science etVie 911: 17–18.

    Google Scholar 

  • Anthony, J. 1976. Opération coelacanthe. Arthaud, Paris. 201 pp.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bell, S. 1967. Coelacanths a century ago? Field and Tide 9: 8–11.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bruton, M.N. 1985.The silver coelacanth. Ichthos 8: 17.

    Google Scholar 

  • De Sylva, D.P. 1966. Mystery of the silver coelacanth.Sea Frontiers 12: 172–175.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fricke, H. 1989. Quastie im Baskenland? Tauchen 10:64–67.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fricke, H. 1997. Living coelacanth: values, ecoethics and human responsibility. Mar. Ecol. Prog.Ser. 161: 1–15.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fricke, H., O. Reinecke, H. Hofer & W. Nachtigall. 1987. Locomotion of thecoelacanth Latimeria chalumnae in its natural environment. Nature 329: 331–333.

    Google Scholar 

  • Greenwell, J.R.1994. Prehistoric fishing. BBC Wildlife 12(3): 33.

    Google Scholar 

  • Millot, J. 1954. Le troisièmecoelacanthe, historique, éléments d' écologie morphologie externe, documents divers. Naturaliste malgache, suppl. 1: 1–26.

  • Raynal, M. & G.S. Mangiacopra. 1995. Out-of-placecoelacanth. Fortean Studies 2: 153–165.

    Google Scholar 

  • Smith, J.L.B. 1939. A living fish of mesozoic time.Nature 143: 455–456.

    Google Scholar 

  • Thomson, K.S. 1991. Living fossil: the story of the coelacanth. Norton & Co. Inc., New York. 252 pp.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Fricke, H., Plante, R. Silver coelacanths from Spain are not proofs of a Pre-scientific Discovery. Environmental Biology of Fishes 61, 461–463 (2001).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: