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Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2008 Dec;18(6):551-8. doi: 10.1016/j.gde.2008.11.002. Epub 2008 Dec 16.

Genomic analysis of cichlid fish 'natural mutants'.

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  • 1Lehrstuhl für Zoologie und Evolutionsbiologie, Department of Biology, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany.


In the lakes of East Africa, cichlid fishes have formed adaptive radiations that are each composed of hundreds of endemic, morphologically stunningly diverse, but genetically extremely similar species. In the past 20 years, it became clear that their extreme phenotypic diversity arose within very short time spans, and that phenotypically radically different species are exceptionally similar genetically; hence, they could be considered to be 'natural mutants'. Many species can be hybridized and, therefore, provide a unique opportunity to study the genetic underpinnings of phenotypic diversification. Comparative large-scale genomic analyses are beginning to unravel the patterns and processes that led to the formation of the cichlid species flocks. Cichlids are an emerging evolutionary genomic model system for fundamental questions on the origin of phenotypic diversity.

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