The Cichlid Fishes of Lake Malawi, Africa

Abstract of Doctoral Dissertation

Rebecca Carina Jordan
University of Massachusetts at Amherst, 2001
Adviser: Francis Juanes  

Visual factors guiding mate choice in a group of Lake Malawi cichlids (East Africa)  

The cichlid fishes of the East African Lakes are noted for their explosive radiation and vast diversification over short evolutionary time. Lake Malawi, in particular, houses a diverse cichlid assemblage. There are numerous theories to explain this diversity that are often linked to sexual selection through female choice. Given that males are brightly colored, female choice cues have been thought to be primarily visual. Little, however, has been done to investigate the visual factors used by Lake Malawi cichlids. The primary objective of my dissertation is to ask four main questions using Lake Malawi mbuna (rock-dwellers): (I) what spectral abilities exist across several taxa? (II) what is the role of visual cues in interspecific mate choice? (III) what is the role of ultraviolet radiation in mate choice and feeding, and (IV) what variation in physical characteristics occur [sic] with attenuating light? A critical understanding of the visual factors affecting the Lake Malawi mbuna is a necessary step in understanding the mating systems of these fish. This understanding can aid in explaining the extreme diversity seen in these mbuna, and comes at pivotal time because of the anthropogenic stressors that currently threaten the integrity of the East African cichlid fish.




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