Table of Contents
International Journal of Evolutionary Biology
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 616320, 12 pages
Research Article

Community Genetics Reveal Elevated Levels of Sympatric Gene Flow among Morphologically Similar but Not among Morphologically Dissimilar Species of Lake Victoria Cichlid Fish

1Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Bern, Baltzerstrasse 6, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland
2EAWAG, Center for Ecology, Evolution and Biogeochemistry (CEEB), Seestrasse 79, CH-6047 Kastanienbaum, Switzerland
3Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics, University of Amsterdam, Science Park 904, 1098 XH Amsterdam, The Netherlands
4Department of Biological Sciences, University of Hull, Hull HU6 7RX, UK
5Tanzanian Fisheries Research Institute, P.O. Box 475, Mwanza, Tanzania

Received 6 February 2011; Revised 18 May 2011; Accepted 11 July 2011

Academic Editor: Stephan Koblmüller

Copyright © 2011 N. Konijnendijk et al. 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.


We examined genetic structure among five species of Lake Victoria haplochromine cichlids in four island communities, using a full factorial sampling design that compared genetic differentiation between pairs of species and populations of varying morphological similarity and geographical proximity. We found that allopatric conspecific populations were on average significantly more strongly differentiated than sympatric heterospecific populations of morphologically similar species. Allopatric heterospecific populations of morphologically dissimilar species were most differentiated. Our work demonstrates that phenotypic divergence can be maintained and perhaps even evolve in sympatry despite considerable gene flow between species. Conversely, phenotypic resemblance among conspecific populations can be maintained despite geographical isolation. Additionally we show that anthropogenically increased hybridization does not affect all sympatric species evenly but predominantly affects morphologically similar and closely related species. This has important implications for the evolution of reproductive isolation between species These findings are also consistent with the hypothesis of speciation reversal due to weakening of divergent selection and reproductive isolation as a consequence of habitat homogenization and offers an evolutionary mechanistic explanation for the observation that species poor assemblages in turbid areas of the lake are characterized by just one or two species in each of a few morphologically distinct genera.