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A collaborative research project carried out under the auspices of the GeoBio-Center at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich has developed an integrative approach to the classification of fossil cichlids, and identified the oldest known member of the tribe Oreochromini.
Cichlids (Cichlidae) are a group of small to medium-sized fish that are ubiquitous in freshwater habitats in the tropics. They are particularly notable in exhibiting a wide range of morphological and behavioral specializations, such as various modes of parental care, including mouthbrooding. Some species (mainly members of the genus Tilapia) have achieved fame as culinary delicacies and are of considerable economic significance. Cichlids have undergone rapid diversification in Africa, which is home to at least 1100 species. This process has been especially prominent in the Great Lakes in East Africa's Rift Valley (Lakes Tanganyika, Malawi and Victoria), where it is referred to as the East African Radiation.
Diversification - East - Africa - Paradigm - Biology
"Cichlid diversification in East Africa has become a central paradigm in evolutionary biology. As a consequence, dating the onset of the process and understanding the mechanisms that drive it are issues of great interest to evolutionary biologists and paleobiologists," says LMU paleontologist Professor Bettina Reichenbacher, who is also member of the GeoBio-Center at LMU. Fossils from the area provide the sole source of direct evidence that would allow one to determine the timing and trace the course of lineage diversification within the group. However, the search for cichlid fossils has proven to be both arduous and extremely time-consuming. Indeed, only about 20 fossil species of cichlids from Africa have yet been formally described.
In a study that appears in the online journal Scientific Reports, a team of researchers led by Bettina Reichenbacher now describes a new fossil cichlid, which the authors assign to the new genus Oreochromimos. The name derives from the fact that the specimens, which the...
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