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1st 3-D image of coelacanth produced

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Feb. 27, 2006

The Tokyo Institute of Technology and GE Yokogawa Medical Systems Ltd. have joined forces to successfully produce the world's first 3-D image of a coelacanth, a species of fish that has survived unchanged in the Earth's oceans for 400 million years.

The Hino, Tokyo-based company scanned a coelacanth that the university had received from Tanzania using a cutting edge computerized axial tomography imaging system. This system can simultaneously record 64 images per second, each image representing a "slice" of the object being scanned. The gap between slices is 0.6 millimeter.

The 3-D image constructed from the scans clearly shows the fish has a tubular, fluid-filled spinal column. It also shows the sturdy bone structure within the ventral fin, a company spokesman said.

The name of the fish means "hollow spine" in ancient Greek.

The spokesman added that the stereoscopic images of the fish's bone structure and internal organs will help explain why the living fossil has survived for such a long time.

"The image clearly shows the coelacanth's features," said Tadasu Yamada, chief of the Mammals and Birds Division at the Zoology Department of the National Science Museum. "I'd like to use it to analyze how the fish swims. It could be useful as a teaching aid at schools."

Previously thought to be extinct, the coelacanth was discovered in 1938 in waters off southeast Africa.