De diklip-cichliden van het Edwardmeer-systeem

Nathan Vranken Maarten Van Steenberge
We hebben in het Afrikamuseum in Tervuren vijf nieuwe vissoorten (cichliden) ontdekt. Deze komen voor in het Edwardmeer, gelegen op de grens van Congo en Oeganda. Een van deze soorten is onmiddelijk herkenbaar aan zijn dikke lippen, terwijl de andere vier een uniek eetpatroon hebben.

De Afrikaanse onderwaterwereld: een duik in het onbekende

Europa, met 344 zoetwatervissoorten, heeft een heel wat lagere diversiteit dan de nu reeds gekende 3000 soorten uit Afrika. Tel hierbij de vele Afrikaanse meren en rivieren op die nog niet zijn onderzocht, en we komen tot de conclusie dat dit slechts een deel is van de grote diversiteit aan vissoorten die dit continent rijk is. Deze vissen leven net onder het wateroppervlak waardoor ze letterlijk voor het grijpen liggen. Dit hebben we dan ook gedaan.

Het Edwardmeer, een van de Grote Oost-Afrikaanse MerenHet Edwardmeer, gelegen op de grens van Congo en Oeganda, is een van de Afrikaanse ecosystemen waarvan niet veel is geweten. Het is een van de Grote Oost-Afrikaanse Meren die bekend staan om hun enorme soortenrijkdom. Voornamelijk baarsachtige vissen genaamd ‘cichliden’ zijn er zeer talrijk. We schatten dat er een 100tal soorten zijn die enkel in de omgeving van het Edwardmeer voorkomen. Tot nu toe zijn er hiervan nog maar 33 beschreven, wat betekent dat er nog een grote diversiteit aan vissen te ontdekken valt in dit Afrikaanse meer.

Vijf nieuw cichliden uit het Edwardmeer Op een jaar tijd hebben we vanuit het Afrikaans museum in Tervuren vijf nieuwe soorten ontdekt. De eerste soort werd gekenmerkt door zeer dikke lippen terwijl we van de andere vier hebben ontdekt dat ze wel een zeer bijzonder eetpatroon hebben: ze vallen broedende vrouwelijke cichliden aan en voeden zich met hun eitjes of jongen. In een wetenschappelijke term noemen we dit ‘paedofagen’, wat ‘kinder-eters’ betekent. De manier waarop ze deze broedsels stelen is uniek in de dierenwereld. Het vrouwtje beschermt haar jongen door ze in haar mond te nemen. Hier zullen de jongen blijven tot ze groot genoeg zijn om zelf weg te kunnen zwemmen van gevaarlijke roofdieren. Dit houdt deze paedofagen echter niet tegen. Ze rammen het vrouwtje tot deze haar eitjes verliest waarna ze snel worden gevangen door de paedofaag. Indien ze de kans krijgen kunnen ze ook hun mond over de mond van het vrouwtje zetten en de jongen eruit zuigen. Deze manier van voeden komt enkel voor bij deze vissoorten.

Dit zijn slechts vijf van de vele vissen die we nog kunnen ontdekken in het Edwardmeer. Wie weet welke bijzondere soorten er nog allemaal verborgen zitten in deze onderwaterwereld…

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Universiteit of Hogeschool
Master of Science in Biology
Publicatiejaar
2017
Promotor
Prof. Dr. Jos Snoeks
Kernwoorden