, Volume 832, Issue 1, pp 39–64 | Cite as

Rebekkachromis nov. gen. from the middle–upper Miocene (11 MYA) of Central Kenya: the oldest record of a haplotilapiine cichlid fish

  • Charalampos Kevrekidis
  • Martina Valtl
  • Stefanie B. R. Penk
  • Melanie Altner
  • Bettina ReichenbacherEmail author


The fossil record of cichlids is sparse, and every new discovery can provide new insights into the evolutionary history of this speciose freshwater fish family. In this article, we describe †Rebekkachromis gen. nov. from the middle-to-late Miocene (c. 11 MYA) of the Central Kenya Rift within the East African Rift system. †Rebekkachromis is represented by two species that differ from all other fossil and extant African cichlids, except Etia, in possessing the unique character combination of two supraneural bones and a set of robust tricuspid oral teeth in the outer row of the dentition. Furthermore, †Rebekkachromis exhibits the only proposed morphological synapomorphy of the Haplotilapiini, namely the presence of tricuspid teeth in the inner row of the oral dentition. We show that †Rebekkachromis constitutes the oldest reliably identified fossil record of a haplotilapiine. The evolution of cichlid fishes possessing tricuspid teeth in the rivers and lakes of the Central Kenya Rift during the middle-to-late Miocene could have been facilitated by volcanic activity, as repeated ash falls may well have fostered the growth of algae and in particular diatoms. These fishes could thus have had a major advantage, because they could exploit the newly available, rich food resources.


Pseudocrenilabrinae Fossils Systematics Tricuspid oral dentition Evolutionary history 



The Research Authorization (NCST/RCD/12B/012/54) was provided by the National Council for Science and Technology (Nairobi). We are very grateful to W. Moturi, J. M. Mironga and K. N. N. Ondimu (all of the Faculty of Environment & Resources Development, Egerton University, ) for their essential scientific and logistic support. We owe our deep gratitude to M. Pickford and B. Senut (Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France), to the members of the Orrorin Community Organization who helped in all aspects of the fieldwork, and to all the other Kenyan residents and politicians who assisted on our project and provided support. We are much indebted to S. Sónyi (Bavarian State Collection for Paleontology and Geology, Munich, Germany) for the preparation of the fish fossils in the field. We are grateful to U. Schliewen and F. Schedel (both Bavarian State Collection of Zoology, Munich, Germany) for providing X-rays and for their constructive discussions. We are grateful to D. Neumann (Bavarian State Collection of Zoology, Munich, Germany) and J. Maclaine (Natural History Museum, London, U.K.) who facilitated access to specimens of extant species. We are grateful to G. Wörheide, the Director of the Bavarian State Collection for Palaeontology and Geology, for his kind support. Finally, we acknowledge the constructive comments of two anonymous reviewers. This research was funded by the German Research Foundation (grant RE 1113/18–1-2).

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charalampos Kevrekidis
    • 1
  • Martina Valtl
    • 1
  • Stefanie B. R. Penk
    • 1
  • Melanie Altner
    • 1
  • Bettina Reichenbacher
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Section Palaeontology and Geobiology, Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesLudwig-Maximilians-University MunichMunichGermany

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