Indonesian news agency Antara reported today that a fisherman near the coast of Sulawesi island caught a rare coelacanth, a species once thought as extinct as dinosaurs, and briefly kept the “living fossil” alive in a quarantined pool.

The fish was caught in nets off the North Sulawesi capital of Manado on Saturday (local time) and died a 17 hours later, an extraordinary survival time, marine biologist Lucky Lumingas said Sunday.

“The fish should have died within two hours because this species only lives in deep, cold-sea environment,” he said. Lumingas works at the local Sam Ratulangi University, which plans to study the carcass.

Coelacanths are among the world’s oldest fish species. Their fossil records date back more than 360 million years and suggest the animal has changed little in that time.

They reached peak abundance about 240 million years ago, but were thought to have died out around the time that dinosaurs became extinct – until a coelacanth was caught off the Commoro islands in South Africa in 1938.

A few have since been caught in waters along the eastern African coastline, and several have been captured north of Manado.

Coelacanths, closely related to lungfishes, usually live at depths of between 200 and 1,000 metres. They can grow up to two metres in length and weigh as much as 91 kilograms.

But the fish, sometimes referred to as a “living fossil,” otherwise remains an enigma for scientists, and it is not known why Saturday’s find was caught in nets so close to the surface.

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