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Proc Biol Sci. 2000 Nov 22;267(1459):2273-80.

Genetic population structure indicates sympatric speciation of Lake Malawi pelagic cichlids.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, University of Hull, Hull HU6 7RX, UK.


Allopatric processes of speciation have routinely been presented to explain the extraordinary radiation of the East African Great Lakes cichlid fish species flocks. The 21 or more species of pelagic cichlids within the Lake Malawi flock appear to have lake-wide distributions that challenge such a concept. Data from six microsatellite DNA loci indicate single, panmictic populations across the lake of three Diplotaxodon species. Levels of variability at these loci suggest that populations have been large and stable. Mitochondrial DNA sequence data (872 bp of control region + 981 bp of the NADH-2) from 90 species, representing all major clades within the Lake Malawi flock, indicate reciprocal monophyly of the pelagic clade. We suggest that these data support a hypothesis that speciation in sympatry is more plausible (and widespread) within the cichlid species flocks than previously thought.

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