Cichlid fishes in Lake Tanganyika exhibit remarkable diversity in their feeding habits. Among them, seven species in the genus Perissodus are known for their unique feeding habit of scale eating with specialized feeding morphology and behaviour. Although the origin of the scale-eating habit has long been questioned, its evolutionary process is still unknown. In the present study, we conducted interspecific phylogenetic analyses for all nine known species in the tribe Perissodini (seven Perissodus and two Haplotaxodon species) using amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP) analyses of the nuclear DNA. On the basis of the resultant phylogenetic frameworks, the evolution of their feeding habits was traced using data from analyses of stomach contents, habitat depths, and observations of oral jaw tooth morphology.
AFLP analyses resolved the phylogenetic relationships of the Perissodini, strongly supporting monophyly for each species. The character reconstruction of feeding ecology based on the AFLP tree suggested that scale eating evolved from general carnivorous feeding to highly specialized scale eating. Furthermore, scale eating is suggested to have evolved in deepwater habitats in the lake. Oral jaw tooth shape was also estimated to have diverged in step with specialization for scale eating.
The present evolutionary analyses of feeding ecology and morphology based on the obtained phylogenetic tree demonstrate for the first time the evolutionary process leading from generalised to highly specialized scale eating, with diversification in feeding morphology and behaviour among species.
Lake Tanganyika is the oldest of the Great Ancient Lakes in the East Africa. This lake harbours about 250 species of cichlid fish, which are highly diverse in terms of morphology, behaviour, and ecology. Lake Tanganyika's cichlid diversity has evolved through explosive speciation and is treated as a textbook example of adaptive radiation, the rapid differentiation of a single ancestor into an array of species that differ in traits used to exploit their environments and resources. To elucidate the processes and mechanisms underlying the rapid speciation and adaptive radiation of Lake Tanganyika's cichlid species assemblage it is important to integrate evidence from several lines of research. Great efforts have been, are, and certainly will be taken to solve the mystery of how so many cichlid species evolved in so little time. In the present review, we summarize morphological studies that relate to the adaptive radiation of Lake Tanganyika's cichlids and highlight their importance for understanding the process of adaptive radiation.
Scale-eating cichlid fish, Perissodus microlepis, from Lake Tanganyika display handed (lateralized) foraging behavior, where an asymmetric ‘left’ mouth morph preferentially feeds on the scales of the right side of its victim fish and a ‘right’ morph bites the scales of the left side. This species has therefore become a textbook example of the astonishing degree of ecological specialization and negative frequency-dependent selection. We investigated the strength of handedness of foraging behavior as well as its interaction with morphological mouth laterality in P. microlepis. In wild-caught adult fish we found that mouth laterality is, as expected, a strong predictor of their preferred attack orientation. Also laboratory-reared juvenile fish exhibited a strong laterality in behavioral preference to feed on scales, even at an early age, although the initial level of mouth asymmetry appeared to be small. This suggests that pronounced mouth asymmetry is not a prerequisite for handed foraging behavior in juvenile scale-eating cichlid fish and might suggest that behavioral preference to attack a particular side of the prey plays a role in facilitating morphological asymmetry of this species.
Individuals of the scale-eating cichlid fish, Perissodus microlepis, from Lake Tanganyika tend to have remarkably asymmetric heads that are either left-bending or right-bending. The ‘left’ morph opens its mouth markedly towards the left and preferentially feeds on the scales from the right-hand side of its victim fish, and the ‘right’ morph bites scales from the victims’ left-hand side. This striking dimorphism made these fish a textbook example of their astonishing degree of ecological specialization and as one of the few known incidences of negative frequency-dependent selection acting on an asymmetric morphological trait, where left and right forms are equally frequent within a species. We investigated the degree and the shape of the frequency distribution of head asymmetry in P. microlepis to test whether the variation conforms to a discrete dimorphism, as generally assumed. In both adult and juvenile fish, mouth asymmetry appeared to be continuously and unimodally distributed with no clear evidence for a discrete dimorphism. Mixture analyses did not reveal evidence of a discrete or even strong dimorphism. These results raise doubts about previous claims, as reported in textbooks, that head variation in P. microlepis represents a discrete dimorphism of left- and right-bending forms. Based on extensive field sampling that excluded ambiguous (i.e. symmetric or weakly asymmetric) individual adults, we found that left and right morphs occur in equal abundance in five populations. Moreover, mate pairing for 51 wild-caught pairs was random with regard to head laterality, calling into question reports that this laterality is maintained through disassortative mating.
behavioural laterality; Lake Tanganyika; mixture analysis; negative frequency-dependent selection; Perissodus microlepis; random mating
Behavioral lateralization has been documented in many vertebrates. The scale-eating cichlid fish Perissodus microlepis is well known for exhibiting lateral dimorphism in its mouth morphology and lateralized behavior in robbing scales from prey fish. A previous field study indicated that this mouth asymmetry closely correlates with the side on which prey is attacked, but details of this species' predation behavior have not been previously analyzed because of the rapidity of the movements. Here, we studied scale-eating behavior in cichlids in a tank through high-speed video monitoring and quantitative assessment of behavioral laterality and kinematics. The fish observed showed a clear bias toward striking on one side, which closely correlated with their asymmetric mouth morphologies. Furthermore, the maximum angular velocity and amplitude of body flexion were significantly larger during attacks on the preferred side compared to those on the nonpreferred side, permitting increased predation success. In contrast, no such lateral difference in movement elements was observed in acoustically evoked flexion during the escape response, which is similar to flexion during scale eating and suggests that they share a common motor control pathway. Thus the neuronal circuits controlling body flexion during scale eating may be functionally lateralized upstream of this common motor pathway.
•AFLPs resolve the phylogeny of Lake Tanganyika’s benthic deepwater cichlid lineage.•The recently proposed tribe Greenwoodochromini is nested within the Limnochromini.•The Limnochromini underwent rapid initial radiation into eco-morphologically distinct lineages.•Large phylogenetic distances between outgroup and ingroup taxa cause random outgroup effects.
Phylogenetic analyses of rapid radiations are particularly challenging as short basal branches and incomplete lineage sorting complicate phylogenetic inference. Multilocus data of presence-absence polymorphisms such as obtained by AFLP genotyping overcome some of the difficulties, but also present their own intricacies. Here we analyze >1000 AFLP markers to address the evolutionary history of the Limnochromini, a cichlid fish lineage endemic to Lake Tanganyika, and to test for potential effects of outgroup composition on tree topology. The data support previous mitochondrial evidence on the tribe’s taxonomy by confirming the polyphyly of the genus Limnochromis and – in contradiction to a recent taxonomic revision – nesting the genus Greenwoodochromis within the Limnochromini. Species relationships suggest that ecological segregation occurred during the rapid basal radiation of the Limnochromini. The large phylogenetic distance between candidate outgroup taxa and the Limnochromini radiation caused random outgroup effects. Bootstrap support for ingroup nodes was lower in outgroup-rooted than in midpoint-rooted trees, and root positions and ingroup tree topologies varied in response to the composition of the outgroup. These observations suggest that the predisposition for homoplastic evolution makes AFLP-based phylogenetic analyses particularly susceptible to random biases introduced by too-distant outgroup taxa.
Ancient incomplete lineage sorting; Cichlidae; Limnochromini; Outgroup rooting; Rapid radiation; Lake Tanganyika
Cichlid fishes have evolved tremendous morphological and behavioral diversity in the waters of East Africa. Within each of the Great Lakes Tanganyika, Malawi, and Victoria, the phenomena of hybridization and retention of ancestral polymorphism explain allele sharing across species. Here, we explore the sharing of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) between the major East African cichlid assemblages. A set of approximately 200 genic and nongenic SNPs was ascertained in five Lake Malawi species and genotyped in a diverse collection of ∼160 species from across Africa. We observed segregating polymorphism outside of the Malawi lineage for more than 50% of these loci; this holds similarly for genic versus nongenic SNPs, as well as for SNPs at putative CpG versus non-CpG sites. Bayesian and principal component analyses of genetic structure in the data demonstrate that the Lake Malawi endemic flock is not monophyletic and that river species have likely contributed significantly to Malawi genomes. Coalescent simulations support the hypothesis that river cichlids have transported polymorphism between lake assemblages. We observed strong genetic differentiation between Malawi lineages for approximately 8% of loci, with contributions from both genic and nongenic SNPs. Notably, more than half of these outlier loci between Malawi groups are polymorphic outside of the lake. Cichlid fishes have evolved diversity in Lake Malawi as new mutations combined with standing genetic variation shared across East Africa.
cichlid; evolution; hybridization; ancestral polymorphism; single nucleotide polymorphism; genetic differentiation
The explosively radiating evolution of cichlid fishes of Lake Malawi has yielded an amazing number of haplochromine species estimated as many as 500 to 800 with a surprising degree of diversity not only in color and stripe pattern but also in the shape of jaw and body among them. As these morphological diversities have been a central subject of adaptive speciation and taxonomic classification, such high diversity could serve as a foundation for automation of species identification of cichlids.
Here we demonstrate a method for automatic classification of the Lake Malawi cichlids based on computer vision and geometric morphometrics. For this end we developed a pipeline that integrates multiple image processing tools to automatically extract informative features of color and stripe patterns from a large set of photographic images of wild cichlids. The extracted information was evaluated by statistical classifiers Support Vector Machine and Random Forests. Both classifiers performed better when body shape information was added to the feature of color and stripe. Besides the coloration and stripe pattern, body shape variables boosted the accuracy of classification by about 10%. The programs were able to classify 594 live cichlid individuals belonging to 12 different classes (species and sexes) with an average accuracy of 78%, contrasting to a mere 42% success rate by human eyes. The variables that contributed most to the accuracy were body height and the hue of the most frequent color.
Computer vision showed a notable performance in extracting information from the color and stripe patterns of Lake Malawi cichlids although the information was not enough for errorless species identification. Our results indicate that there appears an unavoidable difficulty in automatic species identification of cichlid fishes, which may arise from short divergence times and gene flow between closely related species.
The African cichlids of the East-African rift-lakes provide one of the most dramatic examples of adaptive radiation known. It has long been thought that functional decoupling of the oral and pharyngeal jaws in cichlids has facilitated their explosive evolution. Recent research has also shown that craniofacial evolution from radiations in lakes Victoria, Malawi, and Tanganyika has occurred along a shared primary axis of shape divergence, whereby the preorbital region of the skull changes in a manner that is, relatively independent from other head regions. We predicted that the preorbital region would comprise a variational module and used an extensive dataset from each lake that allowed us to test this prediction using a model selection approach. Our findings supported the presence of a preorbital module across all lakes, within each lake, and for Malawi, within sand and rock-dwelling clades. However, while a preorbital module was consistently present, notable differences were also observed among groups. Of particular interest, a negative association between patterns of variational modularity was observed between the sand and rock-dwelling clades, a patter consistent with character displacement. These findings provide the basis for further experimental research involving the determination of the developmental and genetic bases of these patterns of modularity.
The factors promoting the evolution of parental care strategies have been extensively studied in experiment and theory. However, most attempts to examine parental care in an evolutionary context have evaluated broad taxonomic categories. The explosive and recent diversifications of East African cichlid fishes offer exceptional opportunities to study the evolution of various life history traits based on species-level phylogenies. The Xenotilapia lineage within the endemic Lake Tanganyika cichlid tribe Ectodini comprises species that display either biparental or maternal only brood care and hence offers a unique opportunity to study the evolution of distinct parental care strategies in a phylogenetic framework. In order to reconstruct the evolutionary relationships among 16 species of this lineage we scored 2,478 Amplified Fragment Length Polymorphisms (AFLPs) across the genome. We find that the Ectodini genus Enantiopus is embedded within the genus Xenotilapia and that during 2.5 to 3 million years of evolution within the Xenotilapia clade there have been 3–5 transitions from maternal only to biparental care. While most previous models suggest that uniparental care (maternal or paternal) arose from biparental care, we conclude from our species-level analysis that the evolution of parental care strategies is not only remarkably fast, but much more labile than previously expected.
Ecological speciation is well-known from adaptive radiations in cichlid fishes inhabiting lentic ecosystems throughout the African rift valley and Central America. Here, we investigate the ecological and morphological diversification of a recently discovered lotic predatory Neotropical cichlid species flock in subtropical South America. We document morphological and functional diversification using geometric morphometrics, stable C and N isotopes, stomach contents and character evolution. This species flock displays species-specific diets and skull and pharyngeal jaw morphology. Moreover, this lineage appears to have independently evolved away from piscivory multiple times and derived forms are highly specialized morphologically and functionally relative to ancestral states. Ecological speciation played a fundamental role in this radiation and our data reveal novel conditions of ecological speciation including a species flock that evolved: 1) in a piscivorous lineage, 2) under lotic conditions and 3) with pronounced morphological novelties, including hypertrophied lips that appear to have evolved rapidly.
Allopatric speciation often yields ecologically equivalent sister species, so that their
secondary admixis enforces competition. The shores of Lake Tanganyika harbor about 120
distinct populations of the cichlid genus Tropheus, but only some are sympatric.
When alone, Tropheus occupies a relatively broad depth zone, but in sympatry,
fish segregate by depth. To assess the effects of competition, we studied the partial
co-occurrence of Tropheus moorii ‘Kaiser' and
‘Kirschfleck' with Tropheus polli. A previous study demonstrated via
standardized breeding experiments that some observed differences between Tropheus
‘Kaiser' living alone and in sympatry with T. polli have a genetic
basis despite large-scale phenotypic plasticity. Using geometric morphometrics and neutral
genetic markers, we now investigated whether sympatric populations differ consistently in
body shape from populations living alone and if the differences are adaptive. We found
significant differences in mean shape between non-sympatric and sympatric populations,
whereas all sympatric populations of both color morphs clustered together in shape space.
Sympatric populations had a relatively smaller head, smaller eyes and a more anterior
insertion of the pectoral fin than non-sympatric populations. Genetically, however,
non-sympatric and sympatric ‘Kaiser' populations clustered together to the
exclusion of ‘Kirschfleck'. Genetic distances, but not morphological
distances, were correlated with geographic distances. Within- and between-population
covariance matrices for T. moorii populations deviated from proportionality. It
is thus likely that natural selection acts on both phenotypic plasticity and heritable
traits and that both factors contribute to the observed shape differences. The consistency
of the pattern in five populations suggests ecological character displacement.
geometric morphometrics; shape variation; cichlid fishes;
Lake Tanganyika comprises a cichlid species flock with substrate-breeding and mouthbrooding lineages. While sexual selection via mate choice on male mating color is thought to boost speciation rates in mouthbrooding cichlids, this is not the case in substrate-breeding lamprologines, which mostly form stable pairs and lack sexual dichromatism. We present a comprehensive reconstruction of the evolution of the cichlid tribe Lamprologini, based upon mtDNA sequences and multilocus nuclear DNA (AFLP) markers. Twelve mtDNA clades were identified, seven of which were corroborated by the AFLP tree. The radiation is likely to have started about 5.3 MYA, contemporarily with that of the mouthbrooding C-lineage, and probably triggered by the onset of deep-water conditions in Lake Tanganyika. Neither the Congo- nor the Malagarazi River species form the most ancestral branch. Several conflicts in the mtDNA phylogeny with taxonomic assignments based upon color, eco-morphology and behavior could be resolved and complemented by the AFLP analysis. Introgressive hybridization upon secondary contact seems to be the most likely cause for paraphyly of taxa due to mtDNA capture in species involving brood-care helpers, while accidental hybridization best explains the para- or polyphyly of several gastropod shell breeders. Taxonomic error or paraphyly due to the survival of ancestral lineages appear responsible for inconsistencies in the genera Lamprologus and Neolamprologus.
Molecular phylogeny; Speciation; Hybridization; Cichlid fishes; Adaptive radiation
Hybridization among littoral cichlid species in Lake Tanganyika was inferred in several molecular phylogenetic studies. The phenomenon is generally attributed to the lake level-induced shoreline and habitat changes. These allow for allopatric divergence of geographically fragmented populations alternating with locally restricted secondary contact and introgression between incompletely isolated taxa. In contrast, the deepwater habitat is characterized by weak geographic structure and a high potential for gene flow, which may explain the lower species richness of deepwater than littoral lineages. For the same reason, divergent deepwater lineages should have evolved strong intrinsic reproductive isolation already in the incipient stages of diversification, and, consequently, hybridization among established lineages should have been less frequent than in littoral lineages. We test this hypothesis in the endemic Lake Tanganyika deepwater cichlid tribe Bathybatini by comparing phylogenetic trees of Hemibates and Bathybates species obtained with nuclear multilocus AFLP data with a phylogeny based on mitochondrial sequences. Consistent with our hypothesis, largely congruent tree topologies and negative tests for introgression provided no evidence for introgressive hybridization between the deepwater taxa. Together, the nuclear and mitochondrial data established a well-supported phylogeny and suggested ecological segregation during speciation.
The species flocks of cichlid fishes in the East African Lakes Tanganyika, Malawi and Victoria are prime examples of adaptive radiation and explosive speciation. Several hundreds of endemic species have evolved in each of the lakes over the past several thousands to a few millions years. Sexual selection via colour-assortative mating has often been proposed as a probable causal factor for initiating and maintaining reproductive isolation. Here, we report the consequences of human-mediated admixis among differentially coloured populations of the endemic cichlid fish Tropheus moorii from several localities that have accidentally been put in sympatry in a small harbour bay in the very south of Lake Tanganyika. We analysed the phenotypes (coloration) and genotypes (mitochondrial control region and five microsatellite loci) of almost 500 individuals, sampled over 3 consecutive years. Maximum-likelihood-based parenthood analyses and Bayesian inference of population structure revealed that significantly more juveniles are the product of within-colour-morph matings than could be expected under the assumption of random mating. Our results clearly indicate a marked degree of assortative mating with respect to the different colour morphs. Therefore, we postulate that sexual selection based on social interactions and female mate choice has played an important role in the formation and maintenance of the different colour morphs in Tropheus, and is probably common in other maternally mouthbrooding cichlids as well.
cichlid species flocks; Tropheus moorii; Lake Tanganyika; assortative mating; sexual selection
Asymmetry in animal bodies and behavior has evolved several times, but our knowledge of their linkage is limited. Tanganyikan scale-eating cichlids have well-known antisymmetry in their bodies and behavior; individuals open their mouths leftward (righty) or rightward (lefty), and righties always attack the right flank of the prey, whereas lefties attack the left. This study analyzed the morphological asymmetry in a scale-eating characiform, Exodon paradoxus, and its behavioral handedness.
Each eight E. paradoxus was observed for 1-h with a prey goldfish in an aquarium to detect the behavioral handedness. Following the experiment, the lateral differences in the mandibles and head-inclination of these eight and ten additional specimens were analyzed. Both measurements on the morphology showed a bimodal distribution, and the laterality identified by these two methods was always consistent within a given individual, indicating that the characin has morphological antisymmetry. Furthermore, this laterality significantly corresponded to behavioral handedness; that is, lefties more often rasped scales from the right flank of the prey and vice versa. However, the correlation between laterality and handedness is the opposite of that in the cichlids. This is due to differences in the feeding apparatus and technique. The characin has cuspids pointing forward on the external side of the premaxilla, and it thrusts its dominant body side outward from its body axis on the flank of the prey to tear off scales. By contrast, the cichlids draw their dominant body side inward toward the axis or rotate it to scrape or wrench off scales with the teeth lined in the opened mouth.
This study demonstrated that the antisymmetry in external morphology and the corresponding behavioral handedness have evolved in two lineages of scale-eating fishes independently, and these fishes adopt different utilization of their body asymmetry to tear off scales.
How particular changes in functional morphology can repeatedly promote ecological diversification is an active area of evolutionary investigation. The African rift-lake cichlids offer a calibrated time series of the most dramatic adaptive radiations of vertebrate trophic morphology yet described, and the replicate nature of these events provides a unique opportunity to test whether common changes in functional morphology have repeatedly facilitated their ecological success.
Specimens from 87 genera of cichlid fishes endemic to Lakes Tanganyka, Malawi and Victoria were dissected in order to examine the functional morphology of cichlid feeding. We quantified shape using geometric morphometrics and compared patterns of morphological diversity using a series of analytical tests. The primary axes of divergence were conserved among all three radiations, and the most prevalent changes involved the size of the preorbital region of the skull. Even the fishes from the youngest of these lakes (Victoria), which exhibit the lowest amount of skull shape disparity, have undergone extensive preorbital evolution relative to other craniofacial traits. Such changes have large effects on feeding biomechanics, and can promote expansion into a wide array of niches along a bentho-pelagic ecomorphological axis.
Here we show that specific changes in trophic anatomy have evolved repeatedly in the African rift lakes, and our results suggest that simple morphological alterations that have large ecological consequences are likely to constitute critical components of adaptive radiations in functional morphology. Such shifts may precede more complex shape changes as lineages diversify into unoccupied niches. The data presented here, combined with observations of other fish lineages, suggest that the preorbital region represents an evolutionary module that can respond quickly to natural selection when fishes colonize new lakes. Characterizing the changes in cichlid trophic morphology that have contributed to their extraordinary adaptive radiations has broad evolutionary implications, and such studies are necessary for directing future investigations into the proximate mechanisms that have shaped these spectacular phenomena.
Cichlid fishes of Lake Tanganyika display a variety of mating and parental care behaviors,
including polygamous and monogamous mouthbrooding and substrate breeding, cooperative breeding, as well as various alternative reproductive tactics
such as sneaking and piracy. Moreover, reproductive behaviors sometimes vary within species both in space and in time. Here, I survey reports on
mating and parenting behaviors of Lake Tanganyika cichlid species and address the evolution of mating and parental care patterns and sexual dimorphism.
Notes on measures of sexual selection intensity and the difficulties of defining mating systems and estimating selection intensities at species
level conclude the essay.
Supported by evidence for assortative mating and polygynandry, sexual selection through mate choice was suggested as the main force driving the evolution of colour diversity of haplochromine cichlids in Lakes Malawi and Victoria. The phylogenetically closely related tribe Tropheini of Lake Tanganyika includes the genus Tropheus, which comprises over 100 colour variants currently classified into six morphologically similar, polyphyletic species. To assess the potential for sexual selection in this sexually monochromatic maternal mouthbrooder, we used microsatellite-based paternity inference to investigate the mating system of Tropheus moorii. In contrast to haplochromines in Lake Malawi, multiple paternity is rare or even absent in broods of T. moorii. Eighteen of the 19 analysed families were consistent with genetic monogamy, while either a mutation or more than one sire explained the genotype of one offspring in another brood. We discuss the differences in breeding behaviour between T. moorii and the Lake Malawi haplochromines, and evaluate additional factors or alternatives to sexual selection as promoters of colour diversification. A preliminary survey of other Tropheini species suggested that multiple paternity is infrequent in the entire tribe.
mating system; paternity; sexual selection; colour diversification; social competition
The tribe Lamprologini is the major substrate breeding lineage of Lake Tanganyika's cichlid species flock. Among several different life history strategies found in lamprologines, the adaptation to live and breed in empty gastropod shells is probably the most peculiar. Although shell-breeding arose several times in the evolutionary history of the lamprologines, all obligatory and most facultative shell-breeders belong to the so called "ossified group", a monophyletic lineage within the lamprologine cichlids. Since their distinctive life style enables these species to live and breed in closest vicinity, we hypothesized that these cichlids might be particularly prone to accidental hybridization, and that introgression might have affected the evolutionary history of this cichlid lineage.
Our analyses revealed discrepancies between phylogenetic hypotheses based on mitochondrial and nuclear (AFLP) data. While the nuclear phylogeny was congruent with morphological, behavioral and ecological characteristics, several species – usually highly specialized shell-breeders – were placed at contradicting positions in the mitochondrial phylogeny. The discordant phylogenies strongly suggest repeated incidents of introgressive hybridization between several distantly related shell-breeding species, which reticulated the phylogeny of this group of cichlids. Long interior branches and high bootstrap support for many interior nodes in the mitochondrial phylogeny argue against a major effect of ancient incomplete lineage sorting on the phylogenetic reconstruction. Moreover, we provide morphological and genetic (mtDNA and microsatellites) evidence for ongoing hybridization among distantly related shell-breeders. In these cases, the territorial males of the inferred paternal species are too large to enter the shells of their mate, such that they have to release their sperm over the entrance of the shell to fertilize the eggs. With sperm dispersal by water currents and wave action, trans-specific fertilization of clutches in neighboring shells seem inevitable, when post-zygotic isolation is incomplete.
From the direct observation of hybrids we conclude that hybridization between distantly related gastropod-shell-breeding cichlids of Lake Tanganyika follows inevitably from their ecological specialization. Moreover, the observed incongruence between mtDNA and nuclear multilocus phylogeny suggests that repeated hybridization events among quite distantly related taxa affected the diversification of this group, and introduced reticulation into their phylogeny.
Although the cichlid fishes from Lake Tanganyika are treated as a textbook example of adaptive radiation, many taxonomic problems remain unresolved. Cyathopharynx furcifer, which belongs to the currently monospecific genus Cyathopharynx, contains two colour morphs at the southern end of the lake: one has a yellow anal fin, and the other has a black anal fin. Some books for hobbyists of ornamental fish treat these morphs as different species, but taxonomic studies have neither mentioned the existence nor addressed the status of these colour morphs. In the present paper, we analysed these two colour morphs using mitochondrial, microsatellite, morphometric, and meristic data sets. Both molecular and morphological data allowed clear discrimination between these morphs, suggesting the existence of two distinct sympatric species. Three taxonomic species have been described in this genus, and only C. furcifer is currently considered valid. Observations of type specimens of these three nominal species will be needed to determine the scientific names of these colour morphs.
The cichlid fishes of the East African Great Lakes represent a model especially suited to study adaptive radiation and speciation. With several African cichlid genome projects being in progress, a promising set of closely related genomes is emerging, which is expected to serve as a valuable data base to solve questions on genotype-phenotype relations. The mitochondrial (mt) genomes presented here are the first results of the assembly and annotation process for two closely related but eco-morphologically highly distinct Lake Tanganyika cichlids, Petrochromis trewavasae and Tropheus moorii. The genomic sequences comprise 16,588 bp (P. trewavasae) and 16,590 bp (T. moorii), and exhibit the typical mitochondrial structure, with 13 protein-coding genes, 2 rRNA genes, 22 tRNA genes, and a non-coding control region. Analyses confirmed that the two species are very closely related with an overall sequence similarity of 96%. We analyzed the newly generated sequences in the phylogenetic context of 21 published labroid fish mitochondrial genomes. Consistent with other vertebrates, the D-loop region was found to evolve faster than protein-coding genes, which in turn are followed by the rRNAs; the tRNAs vary greatly in the rate of sequence evolution, but on average evolve the slowest. Within the group of coding genes, ND6 evolves most rapidly. Codon usage is similar among examined cichlid tribes and labroid families; although a slight shift in usage patterns down the gene tree could be observed. Despite having a clearly different nucleotide composition, ND6 showed a similar codon usage. C-terminal ends of Cox1 exhibit variations, where the varying number of amino acids is related to the structure of the obtained phylogenetic tree. This variation may be of functional relevance for Cox1 synthesis.
Cichlid fishes are notorious for their wealth of intra- and interspecific colour pattern diversity. In Lake Tanganyika, the endemic genus Tropheus represents the most impressive example for geographic variation in the pattern and hue of integument colouration, but the taxonomy of the over 100 mostly allopatric colour morphs remains to a large degree unresolved. Previous studies of mitochondrial DNA sequence data revealed polyphyly of the six nominally described species and complex phylogeographic patterns influenced by lake level fluctuations and population admixture, and suggested the parallel evolution of similar colour patterns in divergent evolutionary lineages. A gene tree of a rapidly radiating group may be subject to incomplete and stochastic lineage sorting, and to overcome this problem we used multi-locus, nuclear AFLP data in comparison with mtDNA sequences to study diversification, migration and introgression in Tropheus colour morphs in Lake Tanganyika.
Significant incongruence between phylogenetic reconstructions from mitochondrial and AFLP data suggested incomplete sorting of mitochondrial haplotypes as well as frequent introgression between differentiated lineages. In contrast to the mitochondrial phylogeny, the AFLP phenogram was largely congruent with species classifications, colour pattern similarities, and in many cases also with the current geographic distribution of populations, and did not produce evidence of convergent colour pattern evolution. Homoplasy in the AFLP data was used to identify populations that were strongly affected by introgression.
Different evolutionary processes were distinguished by the combination of mitochondrial and AFLP data. Mitochondrial phylogeographic patterns retained signals of large-scale migration events triggered by historical, major lake level fluctuations, whereas AFLP data indicated genetic cohesion among local groups of populations resulting from secondary contact of adjacent populations in the course of the more frequently occurring, minor lake level fluctuations. There was no support for the parallel evolution of similar colour patterns in the AFLP data. Genetic signatures of introgression and hybridisation detected in several populations suggest that lake level fluctuations drove the stunning diversification of Tropheus morphs not only through population fragmentation, but also by promoting hybridisation between differentiated morphs in secondary contact.
Understanding the causes of disparities in species diversity across taxonomic groups and regions is a fundamental aim in evolutionary biology. Addressing these questions is difficult because of the need for densely sampled phylogenies and suitable empirical systems.
Here we investigate the cichlid fish radiation of Lake Tanganyika and show that per lineage diversification rates have been more than six times slower than in the species flocks of Lakes Victoria and Malawi. The result holds even at peak periods of diversification in Lake Tanganyika, ruling out the age of the lake as an explanation for slow average rates, and is robust to uncertainties over the calibration of cichlid radiations in geological time. Moreover, Lake Tanganyika lineages, irrespective of different biological characteristics (e.g. sexually dichromatic versus sexually monochromatic clades), have diversified at similar rates, falling within typical estimates across a range of plant and animal clades. For example, the mostly sexually dichromatic haplochromines, which have speciated explosively in Lakes Victoria and Malawi, have displayed modest rates in Lake Tanganyika (where they are called Tropheini).
Our results show that either the Lake Tanganyika environment is less conducive for cichlid speciation or the remarkable diversifying abilities of the haplochromines were inhibited by the prior occupancy of older radiations. Although the results indicate a dominant role for the environment in shaping cichlid diversification, differences in the timing of diversification among the Tanganyikan tribes indicate that biological differences were still important for the dynamics of species build-up in the lake. While we cannot resolve the timing of the radiation relative to the origin of the lake, because of the lack of robust geological date calibrations for cichlids, our results are consistent with a scenario that the different clades reflect independent adaptive radiations into different broad niches in the lake.
Cichlid fishes represent one of the most species-rich and rapid radiations of a vertebrate family. These ∼2200 species, predominantly found in the East African Great Lakes, exhibit dramatic differences in anatomy, physiology, and behavior. However, the genetic bases for this radiation, and for the control of their divergent traits, are unknown. A flood of genomic and transcriptomic data promises to suggest mechanisms underlying the diversity, but transgenic technology will be needed to rigorously test the hypotheses generated. Here we demonstrate the successful use of the Tol2 transposon system to generate transgenic Astatotilapia burtoni, a haplochromine cichlid from Lake Tanganyika, carrying the GFP transgene under the control of the ubiquitous EF1α promoter. The transgene integrates into the genome, is successfully passed through the germline, and the widespread GFP expression pattern is stable across siblings and multiple generations. The stable inheritance and expression patterns indicate that the Tol2 system can be applied to generate A. burtoni transgenic lines. Transgenesis has proven to be a powerful technology for manipulating genes and cells in other model organisms and we anticipate that transgenic A. burtoni and other cichlids will be used to test the mechanisms underlying behavior and speciation.