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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 161:1-15 (1997)  -  doi:10.3354/meps161001

Living coelacanths: values, eco-ethics and human responsibility

Hans Fricke*

Max-Planck-Institut für Verhaltensphysiologie, D-82319 Seewiesen, Germany

Coelacanths Latimeria chalumnae are the only living representatives of crossopterygian fish close to the roots of our own vertebrate history and therefore occupy a unique position among living fossils. L. chalumnae has become a synonym for long evolutionary age, timeless existence, tenacity, immortality and links to old roots, appearing in language, poetry, fiction and many art forms. It is a symbol of a new national identity in the Comoro Archipelago, Western Indian Ocean. I consider here the intrinsic and extrinsic value of coelacanths and the role of these fish in biodiversity conservation. The fate of coelacanths lies in our hands. It will be a measure of the success or failure of eco-ethics in ecology.

Latimeria · Conservation · Living fossil

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