" Hybridization is suggested to contribute to ecomorphological and taxonomic diversity in lacustrine East African cichlids. This is supported by studies demonstrating that genetic diversity within lake radiations has been influenced by hybridization events, leading to extensive phenotypic differentiation of genetically closely related species. Hybrid persistence and speciation in sympatry with gene flow can be explained by pleiotropy in traits involved in reproductive isolation; however, little attention has been given to how trait differentiation is established during hybrid ontogeny, and how this may relate to trophic and locomotor specialization. This study compares body shape changes in a Lake Victoria cichlid hybrid throughout its post‐hatch ontogeny to those of its parental species. Across the considered age/size categories, hybrids occupy a distinct and intermediate morphological space, yet where several transgressive traits emerge. A between‐group principal component analysis on body shapes across size categories reveals axes of shape variation exclusive to the hybrids in the youngest/smallest size categories. Shape differences in the hybrids involved morphological traits known to be implicated in trophic and locomotor specializations in the parental species. Combined, our findings suggest that phenotypic divergence in the hybrid can lead to functional differences that may potentially release them to some degree from competition with the parental species. These findings agree with recent literature that addresses the potential importance of hybridization for the unusually recent origin of the Lake Victoria cichlid super‐species flock "
Classification: Evolution, Lake Victoria.
Santos‐Santos, Javier H & L. Audenaert, E. Verheyen, D. Adriaens. 2021. "Ontogenetic divergence generates novel phenotypes in hybrid cichlids". Journal of Anatomy. pp. epub. DOI: 10.1111/joa.13375 (crc11109) (abstract)