, Volume 542, Issue 1, pp 221-233

First online:

Phylogeography and speciation in the Pseudocrenilabrus philander species complex in Zambian Rivers

  • Cyprian KatongoAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, University of Zambia at Lusaka
  • , Stephan KoblmüllerAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Graz
  • , Nina DuftnerAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Graz
  • , Lawrence MakasaAffiliated withDepartment of Fisheries at Mpulungu, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives
  • , Christian SturmbauerAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Graz Email author 

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Haplochromine cichlids form the most species-rich lineage of cichlid fishes that both colonized almost all river systems in Africa and radiated to species flocks in several East African lakes. The enormous diversity of lakes is contrasted by a relatively poor albeit biogeographically clearly structured species diversity in rivers. The present study analyzed the genetic structure and phylogeographic history of species and populations of the genus Pseudocrenilabrus in Zambian rivers that span two major African drainage systems, the Congo- and the Zambezi-system. The mtDNA phylogeny identifies four major lineages, three of which occur in the Congo-system and one in the Zambezi system. Two of the Congo-clades (Lake Mweru and Lunzua River) comprise distinct albeit yet undescribed species, while the fish of the third Congo-drainage clade (Chambeshi River and Bangweulu swamps), together with the fish of the Zambezi clade (Zambezi and Kafue River) are assigned to Pseudocrenilabrus philander. Concerning the intraspecific genetic diversity observed in the sampled rivers, most populations are highly uniform in comparison to lacustrine haplochromines, suggesting severe founder effects and/or bottlenecking during their history. Two bursts of diversification are reflected in the structure of the linearized tree. The first locates at about 3.9% mean sequence divergence and points to an almost simultaneous colonization of the sampled river systems. Subsequent regional diversification (with about 1% mean sequence divergence) occurred contemporaneously within the Kafue River and the Zambezi River. The clear-cut genetic biogeographic structure points to the dominance of geographic speciation in this lineage of riverine cichlid fishes, contrasting the importance of in situ diversification observed in lake cichlids.


mtDNA sequences geographic speciation phylogeography