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Data from: Fast adaptive responses in the oral jaw of Lake Victoria cichlids

Cite this dataset

van Rijssel, Jacco C. et al. (2014). Data from: Fast adaptive responses in the oral jaw of Lake Victoria cichlids [Dataset]. Dryad.


Rapid morphological changes in response to fluctuating natural environments are a common phenomenon in species that undergo adaptive radiation. The dramatic ecological changes in Lake Victoria provide a unique opportunity to study environmental effects on cichlid morphology. This study shows how four haplochromine cichlids adapted their premaxilla to a changed diet over the past 30 years. Directly after the diet change toward larger and faster prey in the late 1980s, the premaxilla (upper jaw) changed in a way that is in agreement with a more food manipulating feeding style. During the 2000s, two zooplanktivorous species showed a reversal of morphological changes after returning to their original diet, whereas two other species showed no reversal of diet and morphology. These rapid changes indicate a potential for extremely fast adaptive responses to environmental fluctuations, which are likely inflicted by competition release and increase, and might have a bearing on the ability of haplochromines to cope with environmental changes. These responses could be due to rapid genetic change or phenotypic plasticity, for which there is ample evidence in cichlid fish structures associated with food capture and processing. These versatile adaptive responses are likely to have contributed to the fast adaptive radiation of haplochromines.

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Lake Victoria