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Fossil cichlid implies hybridization played great role in speciation

Evolution: On mosaics and melting-pots
Cichlids in Lake Tanganyika/U. Schliewen

From ScienceDaily:

Now scientists around Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich paleontologist Professor Bettina Reichenbacher have described a new fossil cichlid discovered in Upper Miocene strata in East Africa, which provides new insights into the evolutionary history of the group. Moreover, the results are consistent with molecular genetic data relating to the ongoing diversification of the family in the Great Lakes region of East Africa, which have indicated that hybridization between members of related species or even genera has played a major role in cichlid speciation. The work also sheds light on the environmental conditions that prevailed in the Rift Valley of East Africa in the Upper Miocene period, 9-10 million years ago. The new findings appear in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

The authors assign the fossil to a newly defined genus and species (Tugenchromis pickfordi). In light of the scarcity of well-preserved cichlid fossils, the phylogenetic placement of the new specimen is dependent on comparisons with modern members of the family — and given the enormous diversity of the latter, this is by no means an easy task. Paper. (public access) – Melanie Altner, Ulrich K. Schliewen, Stefanie B. R. Penk, Bettina Reichenbacher. †Tugenchromis pickfordi, gen. et sp. nov., from the upper Miocene—a stem-group cichlid of the ‘East African Radiation’. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 2017; e1297819 DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2017.1297819 More.

The reality is that most of the claims for “speciation” of cichlids must be spurious if “hybridization” plays so great a role. But, increasingly, that is just the sort of thing we are supposed to avoid noticing.

See also: Cichlid speciation attributed to “plasticity” now

Are there really 1000 “species” of cichlid?

Why are there so many “species”? Well, maybe there aren’t.


Nothing says “Darwin snob” like indifference to the mess that the entire concept of speciation is in.


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