Patterns and Processes of Speciation in Ancient Lakes

Volume 205 of the series Developments in Hydrobiology pp 57-68


Abundance, distribution, and territory areas of rock-dwelling Lake Tanganyika cichlid fish species

  • Christian SturmbauerAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Graz
  • , Corinna FuchsAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Graz
  • , Georg HarbAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Graz
  • , Elisabeth DammAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Graz
  • , Nina DuftnerAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of GrazSection of Integrative Biology, University of Texas at Austin
  • , Michaela MaderbacherAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Graz
  • , Martin KochAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Graz
  • , Stephan KoblmüllerAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, University of Graz

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Lake Tanganyika, the second-oldest and second-deepest lake in the world, harbors an impressive cichlid fish fauna counting about 250 endemic species that are characterized by a great level of ecological, morphological, and behavioral specialization. This study describes and compares cichlid fish communities at two rocky shores with differential human impact in the south of Lake Tanganyika. Species inventories and depth-dependent abundances were elaborated. About 41 and 46 sympatric cichlid species were recorded in the two study sites, respectively. Variabilichromis moorii was the most abundant species (29–60% of total number of fishes), followed by Aulonocranus dewindti (3–19%), Tropheus moorii (12%), Ophthalmotilapia ventralis (4–10%), Eretmodus cyanostictus (6–11%), and Cyathopharynx furcifer (0.01–9%). All other species had abundances below 5%. It further emerged that large cichlids such as Petrochromis species, Cyathopharynx furcifer, and Lobochilotes labiatus were very rare at one location, with frequencies of 0.55% or less. Territorial sizes of three particularly abundant species, Variabilichromis moorii, Aulonocranus dewindti, and Tropheus moorii, were assessed by behavioral observations. We distinguished between territorial core areas and total defended area, yielding average core areas between 0.4 (V. moorii) and 1.6 m2 (T. moorii), and total defended areas averaging for each species between 1.6 (V. moorii) and 5.0 m2 (A. dewindti) with no significant differences between the two study sites. The data on individual densities are also relevant for evolutionary studies, in that they allow more accurate calculations of effective population sizes.


Aulonocranus dewindti Tropheus moorii Variabilichromis moorii Ecology Fish community Territorial behavior Eastern Africa