In the African cichlid species flocks several corresponding ecotypes and species communities
have evolved independently in each of the lakes. These flocks can be viewed as reiterations
of a process, induced by the same type of external event (the formation of a lake) and
seeded by the same group of organisms, equipped with the same innovative potential. The East
African lakes differ in their ages, so that different stages of adaptive radiation of a
single group of fishes can be studied simultaneously. This review combines findings on various
African cichlid species flocks and derives a generalized model of cichlid adaptive radiation.
The model constitutes four stages, defined by the most influential habitat characteristics and
interactions among members of the species community at each phase. It is an attempt to provide
an explicit hypothesis for a dynamic evolutionary process, as a basis to future studies.