Cichlid fishes evolution


This video is about African cichlids.

From Scientific American:

The Extraordinary Evolution of Cichlid Fishes

Cichlid fishes have undergone a mind-boggling degree of speciation. New research is revealing features of their genomes that primed them to diversify so spectacularly

By Axel Meyer

Africa’s Lake Victoria is home to one of evolution’s greatest experiments. In its waters, what began as a single lineage belonging to the cichlid family of fishes has since given rise to a dazzling array of forms. Like Charles Darwin’s famous finches, which evolved a wide range of beak shapes and sizes to exploit the different foods available in the Galápagos Islands, these cichlids represent a textbook example of what biologists term an adaptive radiation—the phenomenon whereby one lineage spawns numerous species that evolve specializations to an array of ecological roles. But the Lake Victoria cichlids far surpass Darwin’s finches in the astonishing speed with which they diversified: the more than 500 species that live there and only there today all evolved within the past 15,000 to 10,000 years—an eyeblink in geologic terms—compared with the 14 finch species that evolved over several million years.

Lake Victoria is not the only locale cichlids call home. Other tropical freshwater lakes and rivers in Africa, as well as the Americas and the tip of the Indian subcontinent, harbor their own cichlids. All told, the family is estimated to comprise more than 2,500 species. Some, such as the tilapias, are farmed for food and are among the most important aquaculture species in the world. Most, like the oscars and angelfish, are popular with aquarium enthusiasts because they are beautiful and have many interesting courtship and parenting behaviors. Many species have yet to be formally described. The cichlids share their lakes with other families of fishes, but only cichlids have managed to speciate so extensively and so fast. Indeed, no other group of vertebrate animals can rival the cichlids in terms of sheer number of species and variety of body shape, coloration and behavior. At the same time, however, evolution has often repeated itself in these fishes: a number of the same adaptations have evolved in parallel in the separate cichlid lineages—a curious trend.

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