The Cichlid Fishes of Lake Malawi, Africa

Abstract of Publication

Smith, P.F., and I. Kornfield. 2002. Phylogeography of Lake Malawi cichlids of the genus Pseudotropheus: significance of allopatric colour variation. Proceedings of the Royal Society, London (Series B - Biological Sciences) 269 (1509): 24952502.  

One of the most compelling features of the cichlid fishes of the African Great Lakes is the seemingly endless diversity of male coloration. Colour diversification has been implicated as an important factor driving cichlid speciation. Colour has also been central to cichlid taxonomy and, thus, to our concept of species diversity. We undertook a phylogeographical examination of several allopatric populations of the Lake Malawi cichlid Pseudotropheus zebra in order to reconstruct the evolutionary history of the populations, which exhibit one of two dorsal fin colours. We present evidence that populations with red dorsal fins (RT) are not monophyletic. The RT population defining the northern limit of the distribution has evidently originated independently of the southern RT populations, which share a common ancestry. This evidence of species-level colour convergence is an important discovery in our understanding of cichlid evolution. It implies that divergence in coloration may accompany speciation, and that allopatric populations with similar coloration cannot be assumed to be conspecific. In addition to this finding, we have observed evidence for introgression, contributing to current evidence that this phenomenon may be extremely widespread. Thus, in species-level phylogenetic reconstructions, including our own, consideration must be given to the potential effects of introgression.




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