The Cichlid Fishes (Nature\'s Grand Experiment in Evolution)
Cichlid Room Companion

The Cichlid Fishes (Nature's Grand Experiment in Evolution)

Nature's Grand Experiment in Evolution
Author: Barlow, George W., 2002
ISBN: 9780738203768

| review | introduction | content |


by Juan Miguel Artigas Azas, 09-Apr-2003.

This is not a book about keeping cichlids, but a book that gets you to learn about them. Cichlids are gems of evolution, and what they show us take us to understand not just the mechanics of behavior and adaptation, but in some way our own nature. There is no other writting that I am aware of that in my opinion gives you so much information about cichlids. This book should help the aquarist to view his beloved cichlids with a different approach, which will bring a deeper significance and understanding to apparently meaningless behaviors. This book will teach the aquarist to observe things that nobody has seen, to learn from their pets and to share their findings.


I wrote this book primarily for the educated lay person, young and old, and for scientists in other fields. The audience I had in mind is the kind of person who reads magazines like Natural History or Scientific American. I imagined you and I were having a conversation and that you wanted to learn interesting things about cichlids, the sorts of things that so enthralled me as I learned about them. I also wanted to provide colleagues with access to the extensive literature on cichlids.

The inquisitive lay person should find the writing relatively easy to follow. The hard-core scientist may fret over the occasionally whimsical approach; sorry for that. Examples of the capricious touch are the chapter titles, which I ought to explain here. When I want to ascertain the nature of a book, the first thing I do is look at the chapter headings. I had fun thinking up chapters, but they may not always be clear to you - too whimsical, perhaps - so I provide here the chapter headings and their translations. The book also has a short glossary and an index.

George W. Barlow


Introduction, 1

So, What Is A Cichlid?, 7
The diversity of fishes and how they relate to one another, with cichlids placed into the scheme of things and characterized

Jaws Two, 28
The multiplicity of cichlid diets, from eating plants to devouring other cichlids, followed by a description of how the outer jaws collaborate with the uniquely dexterous throat jaws.

Plastic Sex, 51
When, why and how fishes change sex as adults, with some examples from cichlid fishes.

Mating Games, 64
The theoretical issue of conflict between the sexes and how that applies to cichlids, plus a classification of their many mating systems.

Oh Yea, Put Up Your Fins, 90
When, why and how cichlids fight

Cichlid Speak, 106
How cichlids communicate, including dynamic color signals, displays and sounds

Beauty is Only Fin Deep, 118
In these cichlid mating systems, males and females don’t get to know one another. They meet briefly, spawn, and part. How do females choose males, and why should they care?

Mating Gets Personal, 133
The basic mating system in cichlids is monogamy, in which males and females carefully choose one another and form enduring personal bonds.

How Gametes Meet, 153
How sperm reach eggs varies among mating systems. One of the most challenging situations arises when the female takes her spawned eggs into her mouth before they are fertilized.

Family Plan, 173
Cichlids universally care for their offspring but to remarkably different degrees and ways. Some carry eggs in their mouths and some guide schools of young for up to several months, and the young of yet others eat the surface of their parents.

Family Life Gets Complicated, 201
Young are placed up for adoption, some catfish parasitize parents, other catfish become baby sitters. Rarely, young cichlids stay home to help out around the house.

Cichlid Factories, 220
The massive and rapid production of hundreds of species in the Great Lakes of Africa has stunned evolutionary biologists. How have cichlids done that?

Fish At Risk, 251
All fisheries in the world are over exploited, and fish farming - aquaculture - brings its own problem. Cichlids are endangered in many places, especially in Lake Victoria where hundreds of species may already have been lost.

Glossary, 269
References, 293
Index, 317