POPULATION / LOCATION DEBATE

  click here for a printable version of this page


     By doing a rough count of the number of possible coelacanth caves along the west coast of Grand Comoro island - and the number of fish per cave, plus the birth rate, Hans Fricke and associates came up with an estimate for the total Comoran coelacanth population in the low hundreds. However, there was some question if this estimate took into account the known but unexplored coelacanth population at the nearby island of Anjouan, the unseen juvenile population, and the new number of potential embryos in coelacanth births (26 as opposed to the previous 5) discovered in the 1991 Maputo, Mozambique trawled specimen.

      A total population count is also complicated by another until recently unresolved issue: Was the Comorian population the only one? Certainly, the Comoro islands are the only place where regular annual catches of 6-8 coelacanths occur at Grand Comoro and 4-5 at Anjouan. But from time to time coelacanths turned up elsewhere: the one trawled off East London, in 1938; the one trawled off Maputo, Mozambique on August 11, 1991; the four netted off Madagascar in 1995/1997/2001- along with other rumored and newly reported Madagascar catches; and now the Sodwana, South Africa, Kenya/Tanzania/Zanzibar catches.

     Are these fish strays from the Comoros or are they representatives of satellite colonies? The thinking now is that they are both: strays and colonies established by strays. Certainly, the Sodwana coelacanths of which a couple of dozen have been observed, seem to represent a colony.

     Fishing activities differ in the other catch locales and may not be such as to produce regular coelacanth catches indicating colonies. And finally, what about other islands in the Indian Ocean such as the Aldabras and Reunion - which have volcanic drop offs similar to the Comoros? Do they harbor as yet undiscovered coelacanth colonies?

     World coelacanth population became even harder to estimate after the 1998 confirmed identification by Dr. Mark Erdmann of at least two specimens from North Sulwesi, Indonesia at 10,000 kilometers from the Comoros with no apparent water current interactions. This was followed by submersible observation of two more in 1999, and several more after that, plus fresh catches beginning in 2007. The Indonesian population appears to be distinct by DNA analysis, although the specimens at least superficially resemble the Comoran coelacanths. Is there an Indonesian colony or are those fish strays from somewhere else?

     In 2008, the Comoran population was re estimated at about 500 by the Jago Dve group.

     Finally, Jerome Hamlin, dinofish.com author and webmaster has found evidence that coelacanths are being caught in the Solomon Islands of the South Pacific!

     These additional discoveries likely push the worldwide population up and over 1,000. In any event, the coelacanth remains a very rare creature, probably deserving of its endangered Appendix I status in the C.I.T.E.S. listings.

 


Coming in from Search Engine - No Navbar Go to Coelacanth Home Page