Ecomorphological diversification and convergence in fluvial cichlid fishes Academic Article uri icon


  • We compared ecological and morphological patterns among cichlid faunas from three different biotic regions: the Río Tortuguero/Rio Sarapiquf in Costa Rica, the Río Apure drainage in Venezuela, and the Upper Zambezi drainage in Zambia. Cichlids comprise 19 percent of the fish fauna in the Tortuguero and Upper Zambezi drainages and 6.5 percent in the Apure drainage. Cichlid faunas exhibited similar patterns of habitat and food resource utilization, although vegetation-dwelling is more common and detritivory and herbivory are rarer in the Apure fauna. We hypothesize that South American ostariophysan fishes were more preadapted than cichlids to exploit detritivore and herbivore niches. The Zambezi cichlid fauna shows less ecomorphological diversification than the other two faunas, even though the degree of dietary diversification is similar among faunas. Chaetobranchus flavescens from the Venezuelan fauna is the only species that specializes on zooplankton as an adult, and algae grazing (Neetroplus nematopus) and specialized fruit feeding ('Cichlasoma' tuba) were represented only in the Costa Rican fauna. Based on the most recent hypothesized phylogeny for the family Cichlidae, we identified numerous interfaunal ecomorphological and feeding niche convergences. Patterns of ecomorphological divergence in relation to cladogenesis indicate a faster rate of evolutionary niche diversification in Central American cichlids compared with the two other faunas. © 1995 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

author list (cited authors)

  • Winemiller, K. O., Kelso-Winemiller, L. C., & Brenkert, A. L.

citation count

  • 127

publication date

  • October 1995