The Cichlid Fishes of Lake Malawi, Africa

Abstract of Publication

Lowe-McConnell, R. 2003. Recent research in the African Great Lakes: Fisheries, biodiversity and cichlid evolution. Freshwater Forum, volume 20, 64 pp. ISSN 0961-4664. Freshwater Biological Association, Ambleside, UK.  

The East African Great Lakes are now well known for (1) their fisheries, of vital importance for their rapidly rising riparian human populations, and (2) as biodiversity hotspots with spectacular endemic faunas, of which the flocks of cichlid fishes unique to each of the three largest lakes, Tanganyika, Malawi and Victoria, offer unique opportunities to investigate how new species evolve and coexist. Since the early 1990s research involving over a hundred scientists, financed by many international bodies, has produced numerous reports and publications in widely scattered journals. This article summarizes their main discoveries and examines the status of, and prospects for, the fisheries, as well as current ideas on how their rich endemic fish faunas have evolved. It first considers fisheries projects in each of the three lakes: the deep rift valley lakes Tanganyika and Malawi and the huge Victoria, all of which share their waters between several East African countries. Secondly it considers the biodiversity surveys of each lake, based on underwater (SCUBA) observations of fish ecology and behaviour which have revealed threats to their fish faunas, and considers what conservation measures are needed. Thirdly, using the lakes as laboratories, what have the international investigations (including DNA techniques and follow-up aquarium experiments) now revealed about the origins and relationships of their cichlid species flocks and mechanisms of evolution?




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