Thursday, 8 August 2013

The Women and the Coelacanth

2013 marks the 75th anniversary of the finding of the living coelacanth in 1938. Without the women scientists involved, the story may never have happened.

We celebrate Women's Day, 8th August 2013, in their honour:


Latimeria chalumnae (ill. Elaine Heemstra © SAIAB)
  • The ‘living’ coelacanth might never have been found (well not in 1938 anyway) – Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer
  • The JLB Smith Institute (now the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity), which has promoted coelacanth research since 1938, was founded on the legacy of discovery – Margaret Mary Smith first Director of the JLB Smith Institute.
  • The coelacanth genome may not have been decoded – Rosemary Dorrington, and Adrienne Edkins are part of an international team of Rhodes University researchers celebrating in 2013 the successful decoding of the coelacanth genome. A number of female scientists are listed among contributors to the project.
  •  Other South Africa women scientists involved in coelacanth research include Kerry Sink and Lucy Scott who have both been part of the African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme (ACEP) since its inception
  • There are many other women scientists internationally who have contributed massively to marine research – such as National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle