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Two Living Species of Coelacanths?

Mark T. Holder, Mark V. Erdmann, Thomas P. Wilcox, Roy L. Caldwell and David M. Hillis
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Vol. 96, No. 22 (Oct. 26, 1999), pp. 12616-12620
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/49396
Page Count: 5
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Two Living Species of Coelacanths?
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Abstract

During the period of September 1997 through July 1998, two coelacanth fishes were captured off Manado Tua Island, Sulawesi, Indonesia. These specimens were caught almost 10,000 km from the only other known population of living coelacanths, Latimeria chalumnae, near the Comores. The Indonesian fish was described recently as a new species, Latimeria menadoensis, based on morphological differentiation and DNA sequence divergence in fragments of the cytochrome b and 12S rRNA genes. We have obtained the sequence of 4,823 bp of mitochondrial DNA from the same specimen, including the entire genes for cytochrome b, 12S rRNA, 16S rRNA, four tRNAs, and the control region. The sequence is 4.1% different from the published sequence of an animal captured from the Comores, indicating substantial divergence between the Indonesian and Comorean populations. Nine morphological and meristic differences are purported to distinguish L. menadoensis and L. chalumnae, based on comparison of a single specimen of L. menadoensis to a description of five individuals of L. chalumnae from the Comores. A survey of the literature provided data on 4 of the characters used to distinguish L. menadoensis from L. chalumnae from an additional 16 African coelacanths; for all 4 characters, the Indonesian sample was within the range of variation reported for the African specimens. Nonetheless, L. chalumnae and L. menadoensis appear to be separate species based on divergence of mitochondrial DNA.

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