The Cichlid Fishes of Lake Malawi, Africa

Abstract of Publication

Fryer, G. 1996. Endemism, speciation and adaptive radiation in great lakes. Environmental Biology of Fishes 45: 109-131.  

Evolution in great lakes has often been both quantitative (many endemic species of distantly related taxa often being present) and qualitative (outstanding levels of adaptive radiation having sometimes been achieved). These situations pose many questions, such as why there are so many endemics and so many superspecialists (and at the same time often many sibling species), as well as presenting problems relating to such matters as convergent evolution in different lakes, the possible role of key innovations, the nature of isolating mechanisms, competition and co-existence in complex communities, the roles of diverse mutualistic associations, and many others. These rich faunas also provide particularly favourable opportunities for studying patterns of speciation, while attempts to elucidate phylogenies in groups such as African cichlid fishes, that have radiated in several lakes, can be pursued on both a broad scale and at the intralacustrine level using both recently developed techniques and time-honoured methods. Rates of evolution, which differ widely between ecologically equivalent taxa in different lakes, have sometimes been extremely rapid, as attested by both molecular data and evidence from field studies. Notwithstanding their evolutionary exuberance, these rich faunas are fragile as demonstrated dramatically by the appalling tragedy that has befallen the haplochromine cichlid flock of Lake Victoria.




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