Coelacanths, Japanese Giant Salamanders and Komodo Dragons

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Even though I have a hard time believe it, I was informed on several occasions that not everyone spent all their time reading about animals and watching documentaries about them…


Unbelievable but true, and even more incredible is that not everyone just travel to the furthermost corners of the Earth just to find some animal in its special natural habitat.


I’m one of the few who is able to read a guide to African snakes as if it were a suspense novel… not to mention the guides to Australian mammals or insects from Quebec… what books!


I won’t tell you how they end, I don’t want to spoil you! My 15-year birthday gift was “Biologia” (Biology), a book from Helena Curtis, which I read secretly in different classes during my high school year.


My favourite book was a guide to Argentinian birds written by Izurieta and Narosky… it was the one that accompanied me during my travels in my country.


Reading those guides and books, but I would also visit museums and zoos, I discovered several extraordinary animals I took a great interest in, even though I hadn’t seen them in the nature yet.


I can think of three in particular that I look forward to see in any of the above institutions.


I read about the Japanese Giant salamander the first time in a guide to North American amphibians. I couldn’t believe that an amphibian of almost 5 feet (1.5 metre) existed!


I wanted to know everything about that animal. A few years later, I had the chance of seeing several living ones in Washington’s zoos and in a zoo in Tokyo, Japan.


I saw them up close through the aquariums’ glass and what impressed me in addition to their size was that their eyes were so small for such a large animal: you almost can’t see them! These amphibians live in Japanese streams, and it’s in my plans to go and look for them one day.


Another incredible animal is the coelacanth, a fish from the depths of the African coastlines. The biologist who saw a recent specimen for the first time said that it was a fossil before realizing that the fish had actually lived until a few hours before.


It was believed that these fish were a species extinct 60 million years ago and that in their family were terrestrial vertebrates. Based on its living habits in the depths, they can’t be kept in aquariums. However I’ve seen several stuffed versions in London museums and at the Smithsonian in Washington.


Finally, the other incredible animal I was talking about is the Dragon of Komodo, the largest lizard on Earth and living on only a few islands in Indonesia. I was very close to those islands, but I couldn’t go there unfortunately.


I, however, saw them in different zoos. The first time was in San Diego, California. They fascinated my father, so I would always bring back pictures for him.


They are fully carnivores and had so many bacteria in their teeth that they cause the deer and other animals they bite to be infected even though the dragons don’t kill them right away, they just have to follow those prey and wait for them to die.


The recently hatched baby dragons are in danger of being eaten by their parents, therefore they roll in their own excrement to avoid such a dire fate.


As for the coelacanth, I don’t have much hope of seeing them in the nature, unless I start travelling in a submarine… as for the other species, I will definitely let you know about my experience in seeing them!


Author: Helena Arroyo

Amelie Delobel

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