Fossil Fish Found Alive

Fossil Fish Found Alive: Discovering the Coelacanth

About the Book

The sto­ry of the coela­canth is a riv­et­ing “fish sto­ry” that includes puz­zles, adven­ture, dis­cov­ery, and a dar­ing hijack­ing. Some­thing about this strange, odd-look­ing fish “hooks” peo­ple. Per­haps we are awed that they sur­vived the mass extinc­tions that killed the dinosaurs and many oth­er crea­tures. Maybe it’s their unique and baf­fling inter­nal organs. Or it might be mys­tery that sur­rounds baby coelacanths—no one has ever caught one and no one knows where they live. So many coela­canth puz­zles are wait­ing to be solved. I hope some of today’s young read­ers will find the answers.


  • Pro­nun­ci­a­tion for “coela­canth” is SEEL-uh-kanth.

Awards and Recognition

  • ALA Notable 2003
  • Bank Street Col­lege Best Children’s Books of the Year 2003
  • BCCB Bul­letin Blue Rib­bon Book 2002
  • Ben­jamin Franklin Award Win­ner 2003
  • Book­list Top 10 Sci­ence-Tech­nol­o­gy Books for Youth 2002
  • C‑Span’s Book TV, fea­tured book
  • Children’s Lit­er­a­ture Choice Book 2003
  • IRA/CBC Children’s Choice Book 2003
  • Maine State Stu­dent Book Award Final­ist 2004
  • New Jer­sey Gar­den State Teen Book Award Final­ist 2005
  • New York Pub­lic Library Best Books for the Teen Age 2003
  • New York Pub­lic Library Books for the Teen Age 2005
  • NSTA Out­stand­ing Sci­ence Trade Book 2003
  • Penn­syl­va­nia Young Read­ers Award Final­ist 2005
  • School Library Jour­nal Best Books 2002
  • Sci­ence Books & Films Best Books 2002
  • Soci­ety of School Librar­i­ans Inter­na­tion­al Hon­or Book 2002
  • Ver­mont Dorothy Can­field Fish­er Award Final­ist 2003
  • VOYA Non­fic­tion Hon­or List 2002
  • Wash­ing­ton D.C. Capi­tol Choic­es Children’s Book 2002


“Walk­er traces the sci­en­tif­ic detec­tive work that led to iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of this species, long thought to be extinct, then describes the sub­se­quent inves­ti­ga­tions of its phys­i­ol­o­gy, habits, and habi­tat. In words and pho­tos, she intro­duces the sci­en­tists and fish­er­men involved in the search as well as the rare spec­i­mens, which have not sur­vived in cap­tiv­i­ty and were so dif­fi­cult to pre­serve until mid-cen­tu­ry. The author men­tions the inter­na­tion­al pol­i­tics involved in the own­er­ship of the fish as well as mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tions of sci­en­tif­ic data. As the text moves through the 20th cen­tu­ry to recent dis­cov­er­ies in 2001, the pho­tos change from black-and-white shots to col­or pho­tos enhanced by mod­ern under­wa­ter tech­nol­o­gy. The author ends by cat­a­loging the ques­tions still to be answered. An out­stand­ing his­to­ry of sci­en­tif­ic inquiry, this title will appeal to future oceanog­ra­phers and excite them with the news that there is still impor­tant research to be done.” (School Library Jour­nal)

“Walk­er tells the sto­ry of the coela­canth, an ancient fish with a dis­tinc­tive tail, four stub­by bot­tom fins, and spines on its scales. Known from its fos­sil remains, this type of fish was thought to be extinct until a sci­en­tist dis­cov­ered one in a South African fish­er­man’s catch in 1938. The hunt was on, and since that time oth­er coela­canths have been found in a few oth­er parts of the world and observed in their habi­tats deep below the sur­face of the ocean. Walk­er writes well, mak­ing this rel­a­tive­ly unknown area of sci­ence his­to­ry an excit­ing sto­ry of explo­ration and dis­cov­ery. Excel­lent, full-col­or pho­tos illus­trate the text. A behind-the-scenes look at the sci­en­tists intent­ly engaged in the study of biol­o­gy.” (Book­list)

Fossil Fish Found Alive

writ­ten by Sal­ly M. Walk­er
Car­ol­rho­da Books, Jan 2002
hard­cov­er: 978–1575055367
64 pages, ages 10 and up

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