LAKE MALAWI IN MALAWI


Lake Malawi (formerly Lake Nyasa) is one of the "rift lakes" in east Africa. Two continents collided many millions of years ago to form the long narrow lake [360 miles long and only 25 miles wide.) We think of there being two types of cichlids in Lake Malawi the "mbuna" (um-BOO-nuh) and the "haps." Two-thirds of Lake Malawi consists of rocky shores where small (usually only 3 inches to 6 inches long), colorful, aggressive, mostly vegetarian mbuna (meaning rock cichlids) thrive. These rock cichlids live in geographic isolation and this has resulted in many different species of mbuna evolving over time. It is these rock cichlids that have captured my interest for over 20 years now. The "haps" (formerly all belonging to the genus Haplochromis) are larger cichlids that swim in the open waters and are not quite as geographically isolated. We usually think of the haps as three somewhat different types of cichlids. The large piscavores (meat eating fish), the smaller peacocks (belonging to the genus Aulonocara) and the utaka (plankton eating cichlids belonging to the genus Copadichromis).