Temporal range: Holocene, 0 Ma
|A preserved specimen of Latimeria menadoensis, displayed in Tokyo Sea Life Park (Kasai Rinkai Suizokuen), Japan|
Pouyaud, Wirjoatmodjo, Rachmatika, Tjakrawidjaja, Hadiaty & Hadie, 1999
|L. menadoensis range in violet|
The Indonesian coelacanth (Latimeria menadoensis, Indonesian: raja laut) is one of two living species of coelacanth, identifiable by its brown color. It is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN. The other species, L. chalumnae (West Indian Ocean coelacanth) is listed as critically endangered.
On September 18, 1997, Arnaz and Mark Erdmann, traveling in Indonesia on their honeymoon, saw a strange fish enter the market at Manado Tua, on the island of Sulawesi. Mark Erdmann thought it was a gombessa (Comoro coelacanth), although it was brown, not blue. Erdmann took only a few photographs of the fish before it was sold. After confirming that the discovery was unique, Erdmann returned to Sulawesi in November, 1997 interviewing fishermen to look for further examples. In July 1998, a fisherman Om Lameh Sonatham caught a second Indonesian specimen, 1.2 m in length and weighing 29 kg on July 30, 1998 and handed the fish to Erdmann. The fish was barely alive, but it lived for six hours, allowing Erdmann to photographically document its coloration, fin movements and general behavior. The specimen was preserved and donated to the Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense (MZB), part of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI).
DNA testing revealed that this specimen differed genetically from the Comorian population. Superficially, the Indonesian coelacanth, locally called raja laut ("King of the Sea"), appears to be the same as those found in the Comoros except that the background coloration of the skin is brownish-gray rather than bluish. This fish was described in a 1999 issue of Comptes Rendus de l'Académie des sciences Paris by Pouyaud et al. It was given the scientific name Latimeria menadoensis. In 2005, a molecular study estimated the divergence time between the two coelacanth species to be 40–30 mya.
On November 5, 2014 a fisherman found a specimen of this species in his net. It was the seventh Indonesian coelacanth found in Indonesian waters since 1998.
Teams of researchers using submersibles have recorded live sightings of the fish in the waters of Manadua Tua and Talise islands in the Sulawesi as well as in the waters of Biak in Papua. These areas share similar steep rocky topography full of caves, which are the habitat of the fish. These coelacanths live in deep waters of around 150 metres or more, at a temperature between 14 and 18 degrees Celsius.
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