Table of Contents
International Journal of Evolutionary Biology
Volume 2011, Article ID 290245, 8 pages
Review Article

The Utility of Geometric Morphometrics to Elucidate Pathways of Cichlid Fish Evolution

Department of Zoology, Karl-Franzens University of Graz, Universitätsplatz 2, 8010 Graz, Austria

Received 22 December 2010; Accepted 29 March 2011

Academic Editor: Tetsumi Takahashi

Copyright © 2011 Michaela Kerschbaumer and Christian Sturmbauer. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Fishes of the family Cichlidae are famous for their spectacular species flocks and therefore constitute a model system for the study of the pathways of adaptive radiation. Their radiation is connected to trophic specialization, manifested in dentition, head morphology, and body shape. Geometric morphometric methods have been established as efficient tools to quantify such differences in overall body shape or in particular morphological structures and meanwhile found wide application in evolutionary biology. As a common feature, these approaches define and analyze coordinates of anatomical landmarks, rather than traditional counts or measurements. Geometric morphometric methods have several merits compared to traditional morphometrics, particularly for the distinction and analysis of closely related entities. Cichlid evolutionary research benefits from the efficiency of data acquisition, the manifold opportunities of analyses, and the potential to visualize shape changes of those landmark-based methods. This paper briefly introduces to the concepts and methods of geometric morphometrics and presents a selection of publications where those techniques have been successfully applied to various aspects of cichlid fish diversification.