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Who Pioneered Malawi Cichlid Taxonomy?

T he first fishes from Lake Malawi (then called Lake Nyassa) to reach Western science were collected by Dr. John Kirk, the naturalist with Dr. David Livingstone's second (1858-1864) Zambesi expedition. Kirk astutely observed, "The fishes of the lake are almost all of species peculiar [i.e., not found elsewhere; endemic]...." These specimens, in the form of dried skins, were described in 1864 by Albert C. L. G. Günther (1830-1914, right) of the British Museum (Natural History). Among these first species were six cichlids: Chromis squamipinnis (now called Oreochromis squamipinnis), C. lateristriga (now Mylochromis lateristriga), Hemichromis intermedius (now Ctenopharynx intermedius), H. robustus (now Serranochromis robustus), H. longiceps (now Rhamphochromis longiceps), and H. dimidiatus (now Dimidiochromis dimidiatus). Günther described additional species from Lake Malawi in 1894. [Photo: British Museum (Natural History)] Photo of A. Günther

Photo of G. A. Boulenger George Albert Boulenger (1858-1937, left) succeeded Albert Günther at the British Museum. He described many cichlids from the lake in a series of publications between 1897 and 1908, and in his monumental Catalogue of the Freshwater Fishes of Africa in the British Museum (1909-1916); the cichlids were contained in volume 3 (1915) of this four-volume work. [Photo by G.F. de Witte, from Hubbs (1964)]

Charles Tate Regan (1878-1943, right) followed Boulenger at the British Museum. Regan tackled the various African cichlid species flocks in separate papers, and was the first worker to make extensive use of dissections and skeletal preparations of these fishes in an attempt to arrive at a natural classification. His major publication on the Lake Malawi flock was published in 1922. [Photo: British Museum (Natural History)] Photo of C. T. Regan

Photo of E. Trewavas Regan, in turn, was joined at the British Museum in 1928, and was eventually succeeded there, by Ethelwynn Trewavas (1900-1993, seen at left in 1986). Trewavas's papers on Malawi cichlids spanned the long interval from 1931 through the 1980's. When nearly blind, "E.T." collaborated with David Eccles to publish a book-length revision (Eccles & Trewavas, 1989) of Lake Malawi's non-mbuna haplochromine flock that introduced new generic names for numerous morphologically isolated species and for many phenetic groups often based on color pattern. [Photo courtesy of Ad Konings]


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The Cichlid Fishes of Lake Malawi, Africa:  MalawiCichlids.com

Last Update: 21 July 2005
Web Author: M. K. Oliver, Ph.D.
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