New home for "old fourlegs": The discovery of an Indonesian population of living coelacanths

Mark V. Erdmann, Ph.D.
University of California, Berkeley

Wednesday, June 9, 1999
3:00 p.m.—Pacific Forum

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During the period of September 1997 through July 1998, two living coelacanth fishes (Sarcopterygii, Coelacanthini) were captured off the island of Manado Tua, North Sulawesi, almost 10,000 km from their only previously known home in the western Indian Ocean.

A narrative of the events surrounding the initial discovery and the subsequent 10-month search for a second specimen is presented. A brief review of the known ecology of the Comoran coelacanth Latimeria chalumnae is provided as background information, followed by a summary of current and planned future research on the Indonesian coelacanth's ecology and conservation status—including habitat, population size in North Sulawesi, geographic distribution within Indonesia, and threats from traditional fisheries. Additionally, recent results of mitochondrial DNA analyses, which suggest that the Sulawesi population has been genetically isolated from the western Indian Ocean population(s) for millions of years, are discussed with regard to the biogeographical implications of this finding. Finally, a summary of the recent conservation measures taken to protect the Indonesian population(s) is presented.

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Last updated: December 19, 2000