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Sympatric speciation suggested by monophyly of crater lake cichlids


THE existence of sympatric speciation—that populations diverge into species in the absence of physical or ecological barriers—is controversial1–6. The East African Great Lakes harbour hundreds of cichlid species representing only a few monophyletic lineages7,8, although palaeolimnological evidence9–11 and local restrictions on species distribution12 suggest that speciation in these lakes could have been allopatric13,14. The case for sympatry in restricted areas of Lakes Malawi and Tanganyika is stronger15–17 but not unassailable. A better case might be made for cichlid species flocks in small, ecologically monotonous crater lakes. Here we present a mitochondrial DNA analysis of cichlid species flocks endemic to two such lakes in Cameroon. The results suggest that the flocks in each lake are monophyletic: the implication being that each lake was colonized once only, the size and shape of each lake being such that subsequent diversification would have been sympatric.

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Schliewen, U., Tautz, D. & Pääbo, S. Sympatric speciation suggested by monophyly of crater lake cichlids. Nature 368, 629–632 (1994).

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