by Mary Bailey, 27-May-1996.
When Ad Konings first told me about this new book, he described it as being mainly a vehicle for the photographs of Horst Walter Dieckhoff. I don't know if that was genuinely the original intention, but the resulting book is far more than a "picture book," even though I am the first to admit that the photography is quite stunning.
Although we are gradually learning more and more about the ecology and evolution of Tanganyika cichlids (in large part due to Ad's own work), there is still a tremendous amount that we don't know. This new book lets us in on new "secrets" about the fishes, hence the title. The first two chapters give us a general overview of the lake and its fishes, drawing our attention to some of the questions which are still to be answered. One of these is "Why was it that cichlids colonized the lake?" Other fishes are represented, but their numbers (individuals and species) are insignificant compared with the cichlids. The answer may be that their inherent adaptability in both feeding and breeding behaviors has better enabled cichlids to colonize and adapt to new habitats.
The next three chapters examine feeding strategies; the ways in which cichlids have colonized available niches; and their breeding strategies, with a representative species chosen to illustrate each individual strategy. This has the effect of giving us detailed accounts for a number of species within the overall framework of a generalized look at cichlid behavior and evolution in the lake.
Next, there is a detailed and fairly technical 1ussion of different theories of speciation and how these apply to Tanganyika cichlids. Use is made of diagrams to illustrate exactly how present patterns may have arisen and how variations in lake levels have almost certainly led to evolution of new types. Finally, there is a brief look at the current and possible future use of DNA sequencing, which may prove helpful in resolving some of the questions that remain unanswered at present.
It is difficult to find superlatives worthy of the photography in this book. The quality is superb, and the subject matter is rich and varied with many species which we have rarely seen before, either in the flesh or in photos. And there is a huge number of them. Some are used specifically to illustrate the subject matter of the text, while others are there simply to show us what wonderful cichlids are to be found in the lake. And not just the cichlids! There are, among others, photographs of non-cichlid fishes, snails, jellyfish, an evil-looking crocodile, and a portrait of the notorious water cobra, Boulengerina annulata stormsi.
For cichlid fans the arrival of a Konings' book is always a cause for celebration; those of us who have seen this new one are agreed it is probably his best yet. No serious Tanganyika cichlid-keeper should be without it.
176 pages, 282 color photos, hardcover, and size: 28 x 29 cm.