The spectacular discovery of a new population of coelacanths off Sulawesi (Indonesia) in 1998 is still in our minds.
In 1999, Pouyaud et al. (1999) estimated that it was a new species, which they described under the name of Latimeria menadoensis, opening a controversy on Pouyaud's attitude : Pouyaud had obtained from Mark Erdmann, the discoverer of the Indonesian coelacanth, some samples of the Sulawesi specimen : instead of sharing his results with Erdmann, Pouyaud took the opportunity to describe himself this species. Such a lack of fair-play would deserve a "yellow card" in football...
Meanwhile, several reports, gathered in a file available on this site, seemed to support the presence of coelacanths in other areas. One of these reports came from Georges Serre, working at that time for the ORSTOM (Office de Recherche Scientifique et Technique Outre-Mer), who claimed he saw a coelacanth in Java in 1995. The specimen had been lost, as well as the photograph taken at this occasion. So far, so long...
Quite recently, however, Georges Serre claimed he found out again the alleged photograph, and he submitted an article, co-authored with Bernard Séret, of the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris and Laurent Pouyaud (the controversial "father" of Latimeria menadoensis), to the famous scientifique journal Nature. A huge error...
Heather McCabe and Janet Wright, in the 13 July 2000 issue of the weekly magazine, demonstrate that it is an obvious photographic forgery : the alleged Java specimen, is nothing else than the Sulawesi specimen photographed by Erdmann in 1998 (the typical spot pattern, for instance, is exactly the same on both fishes). After the yellow card, sich a hoax would deserve the red card...
More information on the French page : truquage photo pour le coelacanthe de Java.
ERDMANN, Mark V., Roy L. CALDWELL, and M. Kasim
1998 Indonesian "king of the sea" discovered. Nature, 395 [n° 6700] : 335 (September 24).
ERDMANN, Mark V., and Roy L. CALDWELL
2000 How new technology put a coelacanth among the heirs of Piltdown man. Nature, 395 [n° 6794] : 343 (July 27).
2000 Recriminations and confusion over "fake" coelacanth photo. Nature, 406 [n° 6793] : 225 (July 20).
McCABE, Heather, and Janet WRIGHT
2000 Tangled tale of a lost, stolen and disputed coelacanth. Nature, 406 [n° 6792] : 114 (July 13).
POUYAUD, Laurent, Soetikno WIRJOATMODJO, Ike RACHMATIKA,
Agus TJAKRAWIDJAJA, Renny HADIATY et Wartono HADIE
1999 Une nouvelle espèce de clacanthe : preuves génétiques et morphologiques. Comptes-Rendus de l'Académie des Sciences, sciences de la vie, 322 [n° 4] : 261-267 (avril).