Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 577–587 | Cite as

Predicting suitable environments and potential occurrences for coelacanths (Latimeria spp.)

  • Hannah L. Owens
  • Andrew C. Bentley
  • A. Townsend Peterson
Original Paper


Extant coelacanths (Latimeria chalumnae) were first discovered in the western Indian Ocean in 1938; in 1998, a second species of coelacanth, Latimeria menadoensis, was discovered off the north coast of Sulawesi, Indonesia, expanding the known distribution of the genus across the Indian Ocean Basin. This study uses ecological niche modeling techniques to estimate dimensions of realized niches of coelacanths and generate hypotheses for additional sites where they might be found. Coelacanth occurrence information was integrated with environmental and oceanographic data using the Genetic Algorithm for Rule-set Production (GARP) and a maximum entropy algorithm (Maxent). Resulting models were visualized as maps of relative suitability of sites for coelacanths throughout the Indian Ocean, as well as scatterplots of ecological variables. Our findings suggest that the range of coelacanths could extend beyond their presently known distribution and suggests alternative mechanisms for currently observed distributions. Further investigation into these hypotheses could aid in forming a more complete picture of the distributions and populations of members of genus Latimeria, which in turn could aid in developing conservation strategies, particularly in the case of L. menadoensis.


Ecological niche modeling Latimeria chalumnae Latimeria menadoensis Potential distribution 



Ecological niche modeling


Genetic algorithm for rule-set prediction


Global biodiversity information facility


Ocean biogeographic information system


Multivariate environmental similarity surface


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hannah L. Owens
    • 1
    • 3
  • Andrew C. Bentley
    • 2
    • 3
  • A. Townsend Peterson
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA
  2. 2.University of KansasLawrenceUSA
  3. 3.Biodiversity InstituteUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA

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