Abstracts (first author)
Cichlid evolution in crater lakes and ecological opportunity
Ecological opportunity fuels the generation of biodiversity. When empty habitats are colonized ecological release favors species niche expansion and eventually the divergence of taxa via intraspecific resource competition and character release. The very young cichlid fish radiations from the Nicaraguan lakes in Central America are a powerful model for the study of very rapid diversification. Multiple recently formed crater lakes exist in this area, and all of them have been independently colonized by a subset of the fish fauna from the larger and older close by Nicaraguan Great Lakes. This setting is excellent to test the idea of ecological and character release following ecological opportunity. To this end we have studied the entire fish fauna of several crater lakes and characterized the ecological role of each of the species. We investigate the consequence of the absence of some of these species in the community for the remaining species, and the ability of the latter to expand their niche, release their morphological design and ultimately speciate.