What does the exclude checkbox, which is next to the delete ckeckbox do on the product image creation page?
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There is an answer for this already: https://magento.stackexchange.com/a/32518/5913
if an image has the Exclude checkbox checked, it will not appear in the product view page in the media gallery images. (small thumbnails). But it can still be the base image or small image or thumbnail.
It is very useful when you don't want image duplicates. So you should check the Exclude checkbox for the image you set as base image.