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Molecular phylogeny and taxonomic revision of the cichlid genus Hemichromis (Teleostei, Cichliformes, Cichlidae), with description of a new genus and revalidation of H. angolensis

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The tribe Hemichromini is an early diverging, mainly Central and West African lineage within the species-rich African cichlid fishes (Cichliformes, Cichlidae) including two genera, Hemichromis Peters 1858 and the monotypic Anomalochromis Greenwood 1985. Though many of the species are popular aquarium fish, the number of hemichromine species is still a matter of debate with their phylogenetic relationships largely unknown. Based on DNA sequence data of two mitochondrial and two nuclear genes, we present the first comprehensive phylogeny of the Hemichromini. Using an integrative approach based on these DNA sequences data, morphometrics, meristics, and a qualitative assessment of body coloration, we revise the genus Hemichromis and discuss intrageneric relationships. Two major groups within the genus Hemichromis that diverged roughly 6–12 MYA are recognized, of which the first one represents Hemichromis sensu stricto, for the second one a new genus, Rubricatochromis, is described. Diversification with these two main groups started about 3–6 MYA, with different trajectories of colonization in the two groups. Hemichromis populations from the most southern (Cuanza, Zambezi, and Okavango) part of the genus’ distribution range constitute a well-supported clade distinct from all other members of Hemichromis, for which the taxon H. angolensis Steindachner, 1865 is confirmed.

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Data availability

Genetic data are available on GenBank (accession numbers listed in Supplementary Table 1) and morphological data are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.



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American Museum of Natural History, New York


British Museum (Natural History), London


Musèum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris


Musée Royal de l ‘Afrique Centrale, Tervuren


Naturhistorisches Museum Wien


South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity


Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Washington


University Vienna Zoological Collection


Zoologisches Museum der Humboldt Universität Berlin


Zoologische Staatssammlung München


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We thank the following people for help in the field, donation or loan of material, providing of photographs, and help in work and/or discussion of the manuscript: B. Brown, R. Schelly, and M. Stiassny (AMNH), M. Parrent, J. Snoeks, and E. Vreven (MRAC), R. Bills (SAIAB), U. Schliewen (ZSM), J. Maclaine (BMNH), G. Duhamel and P. Pruvost (MNHN), A. Wanninger, M. Petrasko, and S. Engelberger (Univ. Vienna), J. Freyhof (Berlin), R. Fischer (Germany), S. Gohmann (Germany), H. van Heusden (Netherlands, S. Inselmann (Germany), O. Lucanus (Canada), A. Oberleuthner (Austria), M. Zapater (Spain). Also special thanks to JBL (Germany) for providing test kits and other material for fieldwork and measuring water parameters and to S. Thornton (USA) for his financial support of field and laboratory work. For permissions for collection and export of preserved and/or living specimens, we thank the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries Department, Accra, Ghana; Ministere de la Recherche Scientifique et Technique, Yaounde, Cameroon, P. A. Laleye (Benin), H. Boroubu-Boroubu and P. Posso (Gabon). Also thanks to two anonymous reviewer for their valuable comments. Very special thanks to André Luiz de Oliveira (Univ. Vienna) for all his help with analyzing the DNA data.

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Lamboj, A., Koblmüller, S. Molecular phylogeny and taxonomic revision of the cichlid genus Hemichromis (Teleostei, Cichliformes, Cichlidae), with description of a new genus and revalidation of H. angolensis. Hydrobiologia 850, 2177–2198 (2023).

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