Coelacanths: a human responsibility


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The living coelacanth Latimeria chalumnae has a unique position in world biodiversity which raises important questions about conservation and ethics. Some relevant details of coelacanth biology are summarized, including those obtained by direct observation from submersibles. The importance of the coelacanth for evolutionary theory and palaeontology is shown to be paralleled in cultural, literary and artistic areas of human heritage. Threats to the Comoran coelacanths from artisanal fishing are described and conservation measures discussed in relation to local customs and economies as well as the promotion of tourism to spread a new awareness and concern for coelacanths worldwide.