Macropoma lewesiensis

Macropoma lewesiensis is an extinct coelacanth fish that lived in the Cretaceous period (145—65 million years ago).

Thanks to exquisitely preserved fossils in the English Chalk, scientists have been able to describe in detail the morphology of this fish and the other sea creatures that shared its habitat.

Coelacanths were for a long time thought to be an extinct group of fishes, with the last appearance in the Cretaceous, and were only known from fossils.

However, in 1938 an exciting discovery changed this idea forever. Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, curator at the East London Museum, found a very unusual fish in a fisherman's catch in South Africa.

Unable to identify it, she contacted the ichthyologist JLB Smith at Rhodes University who identified the fish as a coelacanth, and recognised its importance as the living representative of this long-extinct group. He named it Latimeria chalumnae to honor Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer for her discovery, and after the Chalumna River where it was caught.

Latimeria chalumnae

Specimen of the coelacanth Latimeria chalumnae. Coelacanths were thought to have died out 85 million years ago but have since been found off the south-eastern coast of Africa and in Sulawesi in 1998.

Species detail

  • macropoma-lewesiensis

    Fossils of Macropoma are well-preserved in the English chalk, providing excellent specimens for palaeontologists to study. Discover what this medium-sized coelacanth looked like.

  • macropoma lewesiensis

    Fossil coelacanths such as Macropoma lewesiensis are known from a variety of localities in both northern and southern hemispheres. Find out more about its habitat, and discover where you might find the living genus Latimeria.

  • Macropoma lewesiensis

    Macropoma lewesiensis is found in the English chalk from the Cretaceous, Turonian, 90 million years ago. Find out more about this environment and the other animals living in the seas represented by the English Chalk.

  • Macropoma lewesiensis

    Get more reference material for Macropoma lewesiensis


Macropoma lewesiensis

Macropoma lewesiensis an extinct coelacanth fish . Restoration of Macropoma lewesiensis one of the last coelacanth fishes. It lived in the clear water chalk seas of sourthern England 85 mya, and grew to about 60 cm in length.

Macropoma lewesiensis

Diorama by Peter Forey of Macropoma lewesiensis that lived in the clear water chalk seas of sourthern England 85 million years ago and grew to about 60cm in length.

Latimeria chalumna

Latimeria chalumna

About the author

Dr Zerina Johanson

Curator, Vertebrates Curation Group, Department of Palaeontology.

A word from the author

'I’m interested in the evolution of the sarcopterygian fishes, including coelacanths. Interestingly, many morphological features of fossil coelacanths, for example the tail and fins of Macropoma, are almost unchanged in the living coelacanth Latimeria.'

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