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Publication - Professor Martin Genner

    Losing cichlid fish biodiversity

    genetic and morphological homogenization of tilapia following colonization by introduced species


    Shechonge, A, Ngatunga, BP, Tamatamah, R, Bradbeer, SJ, Harrington, J, Ford, AG, Turner, GF & Genner, MJ, 2018, ‘Losing cichlid fish biodiversity: genetic and morphological homogenization of tilapia following colonization by introduced species’. Conservation Genetics, vol 19., pp. 1199-1209


    Among the many negative impacts of invasive species, hybridization with indigenous species has increasingly become recognized as a major issue. However, relatively few studies have characterized the phenotypic outcomes of hybridization following biological invasions. Here we investigate the genetic and morphological consequences of stocking invasive tilapia species in two water bodies in central Tanzania. We sampled individuals from the Mindu Reservoir on the Ruvu river system, and at Kidatu on the Great Ruaha–Rufiji river system. We screened individuals at 16 microsatellite loci, and quantified morphology using geometric morphometrics and linear measurements. In both the Mindu and Kidatu systems, we identified evidence of hybridization between indigenous Wami tilapia (Oreochromis urolepis) and the introduced Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) or blue-spotted tilapia (Oreochromis leucostictus). At both sites, purebred individuals could largely be separated using geometric morphometric variables, with hybrids occupying a broad morphospace among the parental species. Our data demonstrate that the gene pools and phenotypic identity of the indigenous O. urolepis have been severely impacted by the stocking of the invasive species. Given the lack of evidence for clear commercial benefits from stocking invasive tilapia species in waters already populated by indigenous congenerics, we suggest further spread of introduced species should be undertaken with considerable caution.

    Full details in the University publications repository