Thursday, November 10, 2011

2nd coelacanth population found off Tanzania coast

From Daily Yomiuri: 2nd coelacanth population found off Tanzania coast
A team of Japanese researchers has discovered a hitherto unknown population of coelacanths, a fish species known as a "living fossil," off southeast Africa.

The researchers from Tokyo Institute of Technology and other entities said the newly found breeding group of coelacanths linked to the site has existed for more than 200,000 years without genetic contact with other groups.

Researchers had believed there was only one breeding group of the species off Africa.

The team published the results in an online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.

Coelacanths have been found only in the sea off Africa and Indonesia. In Africa, an area in the sea around the Comoros Islands near Madagascar is home to the only previously known population of the fish.

Tokyo Institute of Technology Prof. Norihiro Okada and his colleagues analyzed genes of more than 20 coelacanths caught off Tanga, northern Tanzania, and nearby sites. The areas are nearly 1,000 kilometers north-northwest of the Comoros Islands.

The results showed the fish belong to a population genetically distinct from that off Comoros Islands.

The two groups seem to have separated 200,000 to 2 million years ago, the researchers said.

Considering the number of fish caught, the researchers assume the newly discovered population may comprise hundreds of coelacanths near the site.

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