Sven O Kullander


Phylogeny of major groups of cichlids

A number of phylogenetic hypotheses have been presented for cichlids. Those including Neotropical cichlids are reviewed by Kullander (1998), who presented the tree below.

Heterochromis multidens. Photo © Frank Warzel
Heterochromis multidens (Pellegrin), a rarely seen Central African cichlid ends up among Neotropical taxa. Photo F. Warzel.

The tree is based on a parsimony analysis of 91 characters and 50 terminal taxa using the Hennig86 software with a heuristic search and successive weighting. It is a strict consensus tree of 16 equally parsimonious trees differing slightly in the arrangements of heroine genera. See Kullander (1998) for matrix and list of characters.

The tree serves as a phylogenetic roadstart to the South American Cichlidae, with the following limitations. Three genera do not appear among the terminals, viz., Teleocichla (a cichline), Chaetobranchopsis (an astronotine) and Mazarunia (a crenicarin). Terminal taxa with generic name in single quotes represent groups of species forming unnamed genera. Two genera (Nannacara and Laetacara are represented by two species appearing as terminal taxa, viz. N. anomala and N. adoketa, and L. flavilabris and L. thayeri, respectively.

Subfamily and tribe names are as proposed by Kullander (1998). The classification apparent from the tree is complete for the Neotropical taxa, but Old World cichlids are represented by only a few taxa.

tree Retroculus Cichla Crenicichla Astronotus Chaetobranchus Guianacara Acarichthys Gymnogeophagus Apistogramma Acaronia Heroina Symphysodon Mesonauta Pterophyllum Cichlasoma Aequidens Cleithracara Krobia Tahuantinsuyoa Heroini Cichlasomatini

Sides & Lydeard (2000), who did not cite Kullander (1998) or other recent work, presented results of a study of combined conservative exons and more variable introns of the nuclear gene X-src in 23 heroine species, six other Neotropical species, five African (including the non existant "Haplochromis chromogynous"), and two outgroup species. The study supports separation of African and neotropical cichlids, but provides ambiquous-only resolution for closely-related taxa, notably within the Neotropical group. Sides & Lydeard's study, however, confirms Martin & Birmingham's (1998) conclusion of distinctness of Caquetaia umbriferum from other Caquetaia species.


KULLANDER, S.O. 1998. A phylogeny and classification of the South American Cichlidae (Teleostei: Perciformes). Pp. 461-498 in Malabarba, L., et al. (eds), Phylogeny and Classification of Neotropical Fishes, Porto Alegre.
SIDES, J. & C. LYDEARD. 2000. Phylogenetic utility of the tyrosine kinase gene X-src for assessing relationships among representative cichlid fishes. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 14: 51-74.