, Volume 748, Issue 1, pp 185–199 | Cite as

Phylogeny and age of chromidotilapiine cichlids (Teleostei: Cichlidae)

  • Julia Schwarzer
  • Anton Lamboj
  • Kathrin Langen
  • Bernhard Misof
  • Ulrich K. Schliewen


Chromidotilapiine cichlid fishes (Teleostei: Cichlidae) of West and Central Africa represent the most species rich ancient African cichlid lineage. In contrast to the mega-diverse haplotilapiine cichlids from the African rift valley and crater lakes, very little is known about their phylogenetic history. Based on mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequences and a representative taxon sampling, we present a first molecular phylogenetic hypothesis and propose age estimates for their origin and diversification. Our data support the monophyly and an Oligocene/Eocene origin of chromidotilapiines. Within chromidotilapiines, two large, reciprocally monophyletic clades are present and the enigmatic genus Teleogramma could be phylogenetically placed for the first time. The two distantly distributed species Limbochromis robertsi and Chromidotilapia schoutedeni were identified as sister group to the Congolian species complexes of Nanochromis and Congochromis. This unexpected phylogenetic link between a region in West Africa and the Congo basin suggests an ancient hydrogeographic corridor spanning almost half of the African continent. The nearly complete taxon sampling, good knowledge on species distribution patterns and well resolved phylogenies allow the presumption that paleogeographic patterns rather than ecological factors shaped the ancient divergence within chromidotilapiines, which predates the origin of the mega-diverse austrotilapiine lineage, comprising the majority of African cichlid species.


Cichlidae Phylogeny Paleogeography Congo basin Molecular clock 



We are grateful to all people who provided samples for this study and/or helped collecting samples, in particular Robert Schelly & Melanie Stiassny (American Museum of Natural History), Emmanuel Vreven (Royal Museum for Central Africa), Ulyel Ali-Patho, Kadange Theophile, Celestine Danadu and Papy Brown Mongindo (University of Kisangani), as well as members of the “Deutsche Cichliden Gesellschaft (DCG).” This study was supported by a German Research Foundation grant to UKS and BM (SCHL567/4-1).

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 80 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julia Schwarzer
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
  • Anton Lamboj
    • 5
  • Kathrin Langen
    • 6
  • Bernhard Misof
    • 2
  • Ulrich K. Schliewen
    • 1
  1. 1.SNSB - Bavarian State Collection of ZoologyMunichGermany
  2. 2.Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander KoenigBonnGermany
  3. 3.Department of Aquatic Ecology, Institute of Ecology and EvolutionUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  4. 4.Department of Fish Ecology & EvolutionEAWAG Centre of Ecology, Evolution and BiogeochemistryKastanienbaumSwitzerland
  5. 5.Faculty of Life Sciences, Department for Integrative ZoologyUniversity ViennaWienAustria
  6. 6.Institute for Evolutionary Biology and EcologyUniversity of BonnBonnGermany

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