The Cichlid Fishes of Lake Malawi, Africa

Abstract of Publication

Fryer, G., P.H. Greenwood, and J.F. Peake. 1983. Punctuated equilibria, morphological stasis and the palaeontological documentation of speciation: A biological appraisal of a case history in an African lake. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 20: 195-205.  

The present-day faunas of the great African lakes present some of the world's best examples of 'explosive speciation'. Lakes Victoria and Malawi each probably have several hundred endemic species of cichlid fishes. Much can be inferred about the evolution of these fishes from morphology, behaviour and intra-lacustrine distribution and from the fact that they include taxa ranging from local races, through sibling species, to forms that display extensive differentiation. The time taken to acquire specific distinctness can sometimes be accurately defined, but fossil lineages are unknown. A recent study of a fossil sequence of molluscs in the Turkana basin throws new light on the history of African lake faunas. It also claims to have resolved events during speciation. While critical analysis based on our knowledge of living molluscs in this area fails to substantiate this claim, the fossil molluscs complement information provided by the biology of extant fishes and invertebrates and emphasize the importance of these lakes in the study of evolution in living and extinct populations.




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