Bosminopsis deitersi, a tiny cladoceran crustacean.
Illustration by M.K. Oliver after fig. 1-3 in Jackson,
Iles, Harding, & Fryer (1963)

Checklist of the
Invertebrate Animals
of Lake Malawi

Compiled by Michael K. Oliver, Ph.D.
Latest additions or corrections: 29 May 2018

elow, I am compiling a list (with classification) of all the invertebrate animals known to occur in Lake Malawi. Those known only from inflowing rivers are excluded. However, invertebrates known to occur in lakeside swamps ("dambos") are included, based on the documented regular occurrence in Lake Malawi proper of "floating islands" of vegetation from such swamps (Oliver & McKaye, 1982) which likely transport these organisms into the open lake where they may temporarily survive.

Follow the links in the table of phyla to jump to each phylum's list of organisms. In the list, there are links to the citations, in my Lake Malawi bibliography, of the sources documenting the presence of each organism in the lake. (All links to beyond this page will open in the same new window; if a link appears not to load, check other browser windows or tabs.)

hen possible, I have indicated those taxa that are endemic to Lake Malawi. I hope to add further organisms as I become aware of them, and expect to add more links to photos, species pages, and other Web resources about these little-known animals that are so important in the lake's ecology. Specialists who can improve the list are invited to collaborate. Corrections too are always welcome.   Email M.K. Oliver   Phylum table

The Invertebrate Phyla Known from Lake Malawi

Porifera Nematoda Platyhelminthes Rotifera Acanthocephala Mollusca Annelida Tardigrada Arthropoda
Sponges Roundworms Flatworms Rotifers Thorny-headed worms Snails
Segmented worms Water bears Crustaceans


  1. Phylum Porifera: Sponges
     Class Demospongiae — Classification from World Porifera Database
      Order Haplosclerida
       Suborder Spongillina

    Return to phylum list

  2. Phylum Nematoda: Roundworms

    Three species of nematode are known in Lake Malawi — Source: Irvine, 2003: Table 4. No details were reported.

    • Family Monhysteridae

      • Eumonhystera fuelleborni (Daday, 1908) — Source: Jacobs (1984)

    Return to phylum list

  3. Phylum Platyhelminthes: Flatworms — Classification from Animal Diversity Web - University of Michigan Museum of Zoology (more or less, except as noted)

     Class Cestoda (tapeworms)
      Subclass Eucestoda
       Order Cyclophyllidea

       Order Diphyllobothriidea — classification from WoRMS (World Register of Marine Species)

    • Family Diphyllobothriidae

      Subclass Monogenea

    • Family Ancyrocephalidae

      • Cichlidogyrus halli (Price & Kirk, 1967) — Host in Malawi: Oreochromis s. shiranus — Source: Price & Kirk (1967); Pariselle & Euzet (2009). — Note: Not strictly known from Lake Malawi, but the type locality is 3 miles below Fort Johnston [Mangoche], Malawi, on the Upper Shire River. Many L. Malawi cichlids enter the Upper Shire; the host cichlid species inhabits both the lake and the river, and this trematode may be found in L. Malawi proper in the future.
      • Cichlidogyrus sp. — Host: Petrotilapia spp. — Source: Hendrix (2001)

     Class Trematoda (acoelomate parasitic flatworms)
      Subclass Digenea
       Order Opisthorchiida — classification from GBIF (Global Biodiversity Information Facility)

    • Family Heterophyidae
      • Haplorchoides cahirinus (Looss, 1896) — Known hosts: Clarias gariepinus (as C. mossambicus), Bagrus meridionalis — Source: Bray & Hendrix (2007)

       Order Strigeatida [or Strigeidida] — classification from Systema Naturae 2000
        Suborder Strigeata
         Superfamily Clinostomatoidea

    • Family Clinostomatidae
      • Clinostomoides brieni Dollfus, 1950 — Known host: Clarias sp. — Source: Prudhoe (1957)

         Superfamily Schistosomatoidea

       Order Plagiorchiida

    • Family cf. Macroderoididae

      • Malawitrema staufferi Bray & Hendrix, 2007 — Known hosts: Clarias gariepinus (as C. mossambicus), Bagrus meridionalis — Source: Bray & Hendrix (2007)

    • Family Plagiorchiidae

      • Astiotrema turneri Bray, van Oosterhout, Blais, & Cable, 2006 — Known hosts: Protomelas annectens, P. cf. taeniolatus, Ctenopharynx pictus, Labeotropheus fuelleborni, L. trewavasae, Pseudotropheus (Maylandia) zebra, P. (M.) emmiltos, Melanochromis vermivorus — Source: Bray et al. (2006), Bray & Hendrix (2007)
      • Glossidium pedatum Looss, 1899 — Known hosts: Clarias gariepinus (as C. mossambicus), Bagrus meridionalis — Source: Bray & Hendrix (2007)

     Class Turbellaria (free-living flatworms)

    Return to phylum list


  4. Phylum Rotifera: Rotifers
     Class Monogononta

    • Family Conochilidae

    • Family Lepadellidae

    • Family Trichocercidae

    Return to phylum list


  5. Phylum Acanthocephala: Thorny-headed worms
     Class Eoacanthocephala
      Order Gyracanthocephala

    Return to phylum list

  6. Phylum Mollusca: Snails, mussels
     Class Gastropoda (Snails)Classification from Animal Diversity Web and Bouchet et al. (2017)
      Subclass Pulmonata
       Order Basommatophora

      Subclass Prosobranchia
       Order Architaenioglossa

       Order Mesogastropoda

       Order Neotaenioglossa

     Class Bivalvia (Mussels)Classification from The MUSSEL Project - ZAMBONGO: Freshwater Mussels of the Congo & Zambezi Basins
      Subclass Palaeoheterodonta
       Order Unionoida

       Order Veneroida
        Superfamily Corbiculoidea

    • Family Corbiculidae (freshwater clams)

    Return to phylum list

  7. Phylum Annelida: Segmented worms - Classification from Systema Naturae 2000

     Superclass Clitellata
      Class Oligochaeta
       Order Tubificida

      Class Hirudinea: Leeches

        2 species are known in Lake Malawi — Source: Fryer (1959a). No taxonomic details were reported.

    Return to phylum list

  8. Phylum Tardigrada: Water bears — Classification from Tree of Life

     Class Eutardigrada
      Order Parachela

    • Family Hypsibiidae

    Return to phylum list

  9. Phylum Arthropoda: Crustaceans, arachnids, insects
    Subphylum Crustacea — Classification, except as noted, from Martin & Davis (2001)
     Class Branchiopoda
      Subclass Phyllopoda
       Order Diplostraca
        Suborder Cladocera
         Infraorder Ctenopoda

         Infraorder Anomopoda

     Class Maxillopoda
      Subclass Branchiura
       Order Arguloida

    • Family Argulidae: fish lice
      • Argulus africanus Thiele, 1900 — Source: Fryer (1956e)
        SEM photo (figure part g only) of A. africanus from L. Victoria at FAO & Original context of figure, with legend (plate 28)
      • Argulus jollymani Fryer, 1956 — (formerly A. ambloplites jollymani) — Source: World of Copepods, accessed 12Aug07
      • Chonopeltis inermis Thiele, 1900 — nonendemic. Source: Fryer (1956e). Source of evidence that it is not endemic only to L. Malawi: Van As & Van As (1993)
      • Dolops ranarum (Stuhlmann, 1891) — Source: Fryer (1956e)
        Images (figure parts h, j, l, m only) of D. ranarum from L. Victoria at FAO & Original context of figure, with legend (plate 28)

      Subclass Copepoda
       Order Calanoida — 6 species in Lake Malawi according to Irvine (2003: Table 4). I have seen only the following 5 named:

       Order Cyclopoida — 13 species in Lake Malawi per Irvine (2003: Table 4). I have seen the following 18 specified (in the next 2 families; some species may have been synonymized):

       Order Harpacticoida — 6 species are known in Lake Malawi, according to Irvine (2003: Table 4). I have seen only the following 1 named:

       Order Poecilostomatoida

    • Family Ergasilidae

     Class Ostracoda — 57 species in Lake Malawi according to Irvine (2003: Table 4); specific taxa are listed in his Table 6, but those in L. Malawi itself and those only in adjacent waters are not differentiated, so I am unable to list the lacustrine species)
      Subclass Podocopa
       Order Podocopida
        Suborder Cytherocopina
         Superfamily Cytheroidea

        Suborder Cypridocopina
         Superfamily Cypridoidea

    • Family Cyprididae
       Subfamily Cypridopsinae — (From L. Malawi are known "[a]bout 20 new species in at least one new genus, to which also 'Cypridopsis' cunningtoni belongs") — Source: Martens (2003)
       Subfamily Cyprinotinae
      • "A new cypridid genus, tentatively placed in the Cyprinotinae (at least 3 new species)" — Source: Martens (2003)

     Class Malacostraca
      Subclass Eumalacostraca
       Superorder Eucarida
        Order Decapoda
         Suborder Pleocyemata
          Infraorder Caridea
             Superfamily Atyoidea

    • Family Atyidae
      • Caridina nilotica (Roux, 1833) — Source: Fryer (1959a); Abdallah & Barton (2003): Table 1. But, Richard & Clark (2005) conclude that C. nilotica is restricted to the catchment area of the Nile and that "[m]aterial identified as C. nilotica from outside this African area requires clarification and probably belongs to other species of Caridina."
        Photos of living Caridina sp. (including ovigerous female) from L. Malawi at

          Infraorder Brachyura (Crabs) — There are 4 species of brachyuran crabs in Lake Malawi according to Irvine (2003: Table 4). The only species I have seen named is the single potamonautid species below.
           Section Eubrachyura
            Subsection Heterotremata
             Superfamily Potamoidea

    Subphylum Chelicerata
     Class Arachnida — Classification from Animal Diversity Web and WoRMS
      Subclass Acari (mites, ticks, & relatives) — 5 species in Lake Malawi — source: Irvine (2003: Table 4). No taxonomic details were reported.
       Superorder Acariformes
        Order Trombidiformes
         Suborder Hydrachnidia — present in Lake Malawi — source: Abdallah & Barton (2003): Table 1 (as Hydracarina). No taxonomic details were reported.

    Subphylum Hexapoda
     Class Insecta (insects) — Classification from Wikipedia (more or less)

      Subclass Pterygota
       Infraclass Paleoptera

        Order Ephemeroptera (Mayflies)

         Order Odonata
          Suborder Anisoptera (dragonflies) — Source: Fryer (1959a: 214). No taxonomic details were reported.

          Suborder Zygoptera (damselflies) — Source: Fryer (1959a: 214). No taxonomic details were reported.

       Infraclass Neoptera
        Superorder Exopterygota

         Order Plecoptera (Stoneflies)

    • Family Perlidae

        Proposed superorder Paraneoptera

         Order Hemiptera (True Bugs)
          Suborder Heteroptera

        Superorder Endopterygota

         Order Neuroptera (Alderflies, Dobsonflies, Fishflies, Snakeflies, Lacewings, Antlions, and Owlflies)

         Order Trichoptera (Caddisflies)

         Order Coleoptera (Beetles)
          Suborder Adephaga

    • "dryopoid beetles" (superfamily Dryopoidea, no longer recognized in current classifications) — Source: Abdallah & Barton (2003). No taxonomic details were reported.

    • Family Psephenidae (Water penny beetles)

        Proposed superorder Mecopteroidea/Antliophora

         Order Diptera (True Flies)

    • Family Chaoboridae
      • Chaoborus edulis Edwards, 1930 — Source: Irvine (1997)
      • ?Chaoborus fryeri Verbeke, 1958 — (Described from Nkhata Bay but uncertain if found in lake proper) — Source: Irvine & Waya (1995)

        Proposed superorder Amphiesmenoptera

         Order Trichoptera (Caddisflies)

    Return to phylum list


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The Cichlid Fishes of Lake Malawi, Africa:

Last Update: 29 May 2018
Page First Posted: 3 November 2007
Web Author: M. K. Oliver, Ph.D.
Copyright © 1997-2021 by M. K. Oliver, Ph.D. - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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