Comoro Islands Coelacanth Stamp

Coelacanth Stamps



The coelacanth is a primitive crossopterygian (lobe-finned) fish which first appeared in the fossil record about 360 million years ago. Up until 1938 the coelacanth was thought to have become extinct about eighty million years ago. In 1938 a coelacanth was caught by fishermen on the vessel Nerine trawling off the mouth of the Chalumna River in South Africa. The fish measured about 1.5 m (5 feet) in length and weighed 57 kg (126 lbs). Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, a curator at the East London Museum, could not identify the fish. She sent a sketch to J. L. B. Smith at Rhodes University in South Africa who identified the fish as a coelacanth. This modern species was given the scientific name Latimeria chalumnae.

The next coelacanth was not caught until 1952. Since then at least 200 Coelacanths have been caught in and around the Comoro Islands. In 1998 a new population was discovered off North Sulawesi, Indonesia. The Indonesian coelacanths appear quite similar to those from Africa except they are brown in color rather than blue and their sides sport gold flecks. The Indonesian coelacanth has been given the scientific name Latimeria menadoensis.

Coelacanths comprise one of the two groups of lobe-finned fish. The other group contains the Rhipidistia, all of whose members are assumed to be extinct. Coelacanths probably evolved from the Rhipidistia. The lobe-finned fish are generally thought to be ancestral to all later land-living vertebrates.

Survivors from prehistoric times like the coelacanth are sometimes called "living fossils."

See the Coelacanth section of my cryptozoology links page for more sites offering information about the coelacanth. For more information about coelacanth stamps, see Glynn Peacock's Coelacanths on Stamps and Sunny's Coelacanth Postage Stamp Exhibit. Jerome F. Hamlin and Eric Pedersen's site DINOFISH.com provides an excellent source of information and news about the coelacanth.

South Africa cover with coelacanth cachet

In addition to the postage stamps listed below, South Africa used the coelacanth in postal cancellations. The commemorative cover at left was issued in 1968 for the East London Philatelic Exposition to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the discovery of the coelacanth. It is signed by the Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer. You can view a closeup of the cancellation.

South Africa coelacanth gold seal South Africa cover with coelacanth cachet

South Africa's East London Museum issued the commemorative cover at left on the fiftieth anniversary jubilee of the discovery of the coelacanth. You can view a closeup of the cancellation. The museum also issued a gold seal (right) as part of this jubilee.

Comoro Islands coin depicting coelacanth Comoro Islands phone card depicting coelacanth

The coelacanth has appeared on coins (see the five franc coin at left), currency, and phone cards (right) of the Comoro Islands. In 1954 the Comoro Islands issued the first stamp ever to depict a coelacanth.

Zambia coin depicting coelacanth

In 2001 the Bank of Zambia issued a coin depicting a coelacanth on the reverse. The other three coins in the same series show a seahorse and tropical fish in a coral garden, a sea turtle, and two dolphins.

In the table below, a (*) following a country name indicates that stamp is probably a "Cinderella" issue which is not valid as genuine postage.

Selected Coelacanth Stamps
Abkhasia (*) Coelacanth Stamp
Abkhasia (*)

Scott # 387
Issued 1998

The coelacanth appears as one of a set of six stamps (see the miniature sheet) depicting prehistoric animals.

Buriatia (*) Coelacanth Stamp
Buriatia (*)

Issued 2000

The coelacanth appears as one of a set of eight stamps (see the miniature sheet) depicting prehistoric animals. The design of this coelacanth stamp and some of the others in this set are nearly identical to those issued by Tanzania shown below.

Canada Coelacanth Stamp
Canada

Scott # 1308
Issued 1991

A fossil of the rhipidistian crossopterygian Eusthenopteron foordi appears as one of a set of four stamps depicting fossils found in Canada. Eusthenopteron lived in the Devonian period.

Comoro Islands Coelacanth Stamp
Comoro Islands

Scott # 42
Issued 1954

This was the first stamp ever issued depicting a coelacanth. You can also see the deluxe souvenir sheet.

Comoro Islands Coelacanth Stamp
Comoro Islands

Scott # J3
Issued 1954

First of three postage due stamps in this set showing the coelacanth head-on. All three stamps show the same pose but are different colors and denominations.

Comoro Islands Coelacanth Stamp
Comoro Islands

Scott # J4
Issued 1954

Second of three postage due stamps in this set showing the coelacanth head-on. All three stamps show the same pose but are different colors and denominations.

Comoro Islands Coelacanth Stamp
Comoro Islands

Scott # J5
Issued 1954

Third of three postage due stamps in this set showing the coelacanth head-on. All three stamps show the same pose but are different colors and denominations.

Comoro Islands Coelacanth Overprint
Comoro Islands

Scott # C52
Issued 1973

This stamp bears an air mail surcharge of 120F overprinted on the top value of the 1968 fish issue showing a Yellow-banded Sweetlips.

Comoro Islands Coelacanth Stamp
Comoro Islands

Scott # 130
Issued 1975

This stamp commemorating the 1975 coelacanth expedition shows a diver photographing a coelacanth.

Comoro Islands Coelacanth Stamp
Comoro Islands

Scott # 147
Issued 1975

This stamp has the same design as stamp #130 but bears the overprint "Etat Comorien".

Comoro Islands Coelacanth Souvenir Sheet
Comoro Islands

Scott # 274
Issued 1977

This airmail souvenir sheet depicting the coelacanth is the highest value in a set of seven stamps showing fish. This sheet also exists in imperforate form.

Comoro Islands Coelacanth Stamp
Comoro Islands

Scott # 833 (a)
Issued 1998

Also see the maxicard, the first day cover, and the deluxe proof for this stamp. The individual proof and the deluxe proof showing all four stamps, the perforate block of four, and the imperforate block of four bear a different denomination from the stamps as issued.

Comoro Islands Coelacanth Stamp
Comoro Islands

Scott # 833 (b)
Issued 1998

Also see the maxicard, the first day cover, and the deluxe proof for this stamp.

Comoro Islands Coelacanth Stamp
Comoro Islands

Scott # 833 (c)
Issued 1998

Also see the maxicard, the first day cover, and the deluxe proof for this stamp.

Comoro Islands Coelacanth Stamp
Comoro Islands

Scott # 833 (d)
Issued 1998

Also see the maxicard, the first day cover, and the deluxe proof for this stamp.

Comoro Islands Coelacanth Stamp
Comoro Islands

Scott # 833
Issued 1998

This sheet combines the displays the logo of the World Wildlife Fund. This sheet was also released in imperforate form.

Comoro Islands Coelacanth Souvenir Sheet
Comoro Islands

Scott # 893
Issued 1999

In January 1999 the Comoro Islands issued this souvenir sheet which displays several coelacanths in the background. The main subject is the extinct freshwater reptile Mesosaurus brasiliensis. Mesosaurus was a small crocodile-like reptile about one meter in length which lived during the Triassic period. Mesosaurus fossils are found in Africa and South America. In the early 1900s this distribution was offered as support for the idea that these two continents were once joined together as part of the super-continent Pangaea. The coelacanths depicted here are presumably one of the miniature freshwater species. This sheet is one of four which are part of a series depicting prehistoric animals.

Comoro Islands Coelacanth Stamp
Comoro Islands

Michel # 1798
Issued 2006

In 2006 the Comoro Islands issued this stamp depicting a coelacanth. The symbol of the World Wildlife Fund appears in the upper left-hand corner. The stamp is part of a four-stamp series commemorating thirty years of Chinese/Comoro Islands diplomatic relations. The other three stamps show the Presidents of China and the Comoro Islands shaking hands, the radio and television center at Moroni, and the Palace of the People at Moroni. The stamps are also available on a minisheet.

Comoro Islands Coelacanth Stamp
Comoro Islands

#
Issued 2009

In 2009 the Comoro Islands issued six stamps depicting fish of the Comoro Islands including the coelacanth. The stamps also appear on a first day cover.

Comoro Islands Coelacanth Stamp
Comoro Islands

#
Issued 2009

In 2009 the Comoro Islands issued another five stamps depicting the coelacanth. In addition, a minisheet reuses an image from the set with a high denomination. This minisheet is also available on a first day cover.

Gambia Coelacanth Stamp
Gambia

Scott # 1871
Issued 1997

This stamp is part of a sheet of twelve stamps depicting endangered species. Another stamp on this sheet shows the Congo peafowl.

Guyana Coelacanth Stamp
Guyana

Scott # 3043
Issued 1996

A souvenir sheet of prehistoric animals includes the coelacanth.

Guyana Coelacanth Stamp
Guyana

Scott # 3106
Issued 1996

This souvenir sheet of twelve stamps about deep ocean exploration includes the coelacanth and the giant squid. The coelacanth appears in a panel with a goblin shark.

Guyana Coelacanth Stamp
Guyana

Scott # 3272
Issued 1998

A souvenir sheet about prehistoric marine life includes this image of the coelacanth.

Indonesia Coelacanth Stamp
Indonesia

Scott # 1902
Issued 2000

Indonesia issued this miniature sheet depicting the Indonesian coelacanth Latimeria menadoensis for the London Stamp Show in May, 2000. The brown color and golden flecks of this species contrast with the blue color without flecks of Latimeria chalumnae. The native name of the coelacanth which appears on the sheet is "Raja Laut" meaning "King of the Sea."

Ivory Coast Coelacanth Stamp
Ivory Coast

Scott # 521B
Issued 1979

This stamp shows a coelacanth swimming. So far no coelacanths have been found off the Ivory Coast.

Kuwait Coelacanth Stamp
Kuwait

Scott # 1382
Issued 1997

Kuwait issued this miniature sheet depicting a coelacanth as part of a set commemorating the silver jubilee of Educational Science Museum.

Liberia Coelacanth Stamp
Liberia

Scott # 1359f
Issued 1998

Liberia issued several souvenir sheets to commemorate the International Year of the Ocean. The coelacanth appears in a panel marked "twilight and deep seafish" on a souvenir sheet depicting ocean creatures.

Libya

Scott # 1246
Issued 1985

A fossil of a crossopterygian fish, possibly Paleochromis rouseleti, appears on one of a set of three stamps depicting fossils found in Libya.

Madagascar Coelacanth Stamp
Madagascar

Scott # 652
Issued 1982

The miniature sheet on which this stamp appears depicts the coelacanth swimming in its natural habitat.

Madagascar Coelacanth Stamp
Madagascar

Scott # 966
Issued 1990

This miniature sheet of the coelacanth belongs to a set of six stamps depicting marine topics. While the sheet bears an issue date of 1989, it was actually released in 1990.

Madagascar Coelacanth Stamp
Madagascar

Scott # 1169a
Issued 1993

This coelacanth stamp appears on a souvenir sheet of sixteen stamps depicting other marine life.

Mauritania Coelacanth Stamp
Mauritania

Issued 2000

This coelacanth stamp appears as one of a set of three stamps. The other two stamps depict a sea turtle and an octopus. The three stamps also appear on a souvenir sheet which additionally features fishermen, a lobster, a crab, and a sirenian (presumably a dugong).

Mozambique Coelacanth Stamp
Mozambique

Scott # 1295
Issued 1998

In August 1991 a single female coelacanth was netted off the shores of Mozambique near Pebane. This coelacanth was 179 cm in length and weighed 98 kg, the second largest ever caught. This stamp may commemorate that event. The stamp was issued for Expo '98, the world's fair held in Lisbon, Portugal.

Niuafo'ou Rhipidistia Stamp
Niuafo'ou

Scott # 118
Issued 1989

This stamp is one of a set depicting stages in Earth history. A crossopterygian (presumably a rhipidistian) is leaving the water near an early amphibian -- perhaps Icthyostega or another member of the Labyrinthodontia. The stamp also festures the fossil skeleton of a rhipidistian along with a dragonfly. This stamp image was reused on a miniature sheet (Scott #123) issued in 1989. You may view a black and white proof of this sheet.

North Korea Coelacanth Stamp
North Korea

Issued 1993

This stamp appears as one of a se-tenant pair on a miniature sheet. The other stamp depicts Lampris guttatus, the Spotted Moonfish.

North Korea Coelacanth Stamp
North Korea

Michel # 3969
Issued 1999

This sheet issued in honor of Charles Darwin shows a rhipidistian at the top along with five stamps depicting five different types of vertebrates (birds, bats, dolphins, horses, and humans). Above each stamp is an image of the corresponding vertebrate's limb structure. Lines descend from the lobe fins of the rhipidistian to the limbs of the other vertebrates, demonstrating the evolutionary relationship. The sheet is available in both perforate and imperforate varieties.

Palau Coelacanth Stamp
Palau

Scott # 584m
Issued 2000

This stamp appears on a Millennium souvenir sheet of seventeen stamps commemorating undersea history and exploration. You can also view the first day cover for the sheet.

Poland Rhipidistia eusthenopteron Stamp
Poland

Scott # 1396
Issued 1966

This stamp depicts Rhipidistia eusthenopteron, an extinct representative of the "other" group of lobe-finned fish. The coelacanth probably evolved from a Rhipidistian ancestor. The Rhipidistians were probably directly ancestral to all later land vertebrates.

South Africa Coelacanth Stamp
South Africa

Scott # 762
Issued 1989

This stamp is the first in a set of four stamps commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of a living coelacanth. You may also view the block of four and the maxicardfor this stamp. A postcard with this stamp features a coelacanth cachet and is signed by Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer. The first day cover for the four stamp set is also signed by Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer. Another cover features a different cachet of the coelacanth seen head-on. The East London Museum also issued a gold seal to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary.

South Africa Coelacanth Stamp
South Africa

Scott # 763
Issued 1989

This stamp is the second in a set of four stamps commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of a living coelacanth. It shows the discoverers of the coelacanth in 1938, J. L. B. Smith and M. Courtenay-Latimer. You may also view the block of four and the maxicard for this stamp.

South Africa Coelacanth Stamp
South Africa

Scott # 764
Issued 1989

This stamp is the third in a set of four stamps commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of a living coelacanth. It shows the J. L. B. Smith Institute of Icthyology in Grahamstown. You may also view the block of four and the maxicard for this stamp.

South Africa Coelacanth Stamp
South Africa

Scott # 765
Issued 1989

This stamp is the fourth in a set of four stamps commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the discovery of a living coelacanth. The stamp depicts a coelacanth along with a two-man research submarine. Also see the block of four; one stamp souvenir sheet and a cover bearing this sheet; a two stamp souvenir sheet; the first day cover signed by Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer; and the maxicard for this stamp.

S. Tomé e Prîncipe Coelacanth Stamp
S. Tomé e Prîncipe

Issued 2007

In 2007 the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Prîncipe issued this stamp showing the modern-day coelacanth Latimeria chalumnae along with another fish named Chlorostigma. A minature sheet (here shown on a first-day cover) presents the coelacanth stamp along with three other stamps depicting fish. The sheet commemorates the one hundredth anniversary of the Boy Scouts.

S. Tomé e Prîncipe Coelacanth Stamp
S. Tomé e Prîncipe

Issued 2009

In 2009 the Democratic Republic of São Tomé and Prîncipe issued this sheet showing the modern-day coelacanth Latimeria chalumnae along with a number of other fish. The stamps also appear on a first day cover.

Tanzania (*) Coelacanth Stamp
Tanzania (*)

Issued 1998?

The coelacanth appears as one of a set of four stamps depicting prehistoric sea life. Several of the stamp images in this set are nearly identical to those from Buriatia above, so this may not be a legitimate stamp issue.

Turks and Caicos Islands Coelacanth Sheet
Turks and Caicos Islands

Scott # 1235
Issued 1997

This stamp appears on a souvenir sheet showing German scientists using a submersible to study the coelacanth underwater and the cause for its decline. Part of a series on underwater exploration and photography.





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Last modified by pib on January 20, 2011.