By Diane Warshawsky

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Relatively stable habitats, they are nevertheless subject to greater seasonal changes than are the open waters. The inundation zones carry juvenile fishes of many species: entomostracans and insect larvae are abundant here and there are rich bottom deposits for Citharinus, which become mud-feeders when about 3 cm long. At low water the young fish move into the floating meadows or marginal macrophytes, where an intensive basket fishery catches many species of mormyrid, the characoids Hydrocynus, Distichodus and Citharinus, and siluroids Clarias, Synodontis and Schilbe, and also tilapias.

The Dahomey Gap, where a belt of savanna comes right down to the coast, breaks the guinean forest zone into western and eastern sections (Fig. 2), affecting the distribution of some guinean species. The Zambezi fauna (ca 101 species) lacks many families of fishes present in West Africa and Zaire; it also has fewer kinds of mormyrid and characoid, but cyprinid numbers are high. The Upper Zambezi, above the Victoria Falls, a 'reservoir type' river, has a richer fish fauna than the Middle Zambezi (from the Falls to the Cabora Bassa rapids, now a hydroelectric barrage), probably for ecological reasons - the many swamps provide cover round the year for the fishes, whereas the Middle The African fish fauna 39 Zambezi before the formation of Lake Kariba here was a 'sandbank river' shrinking into pools in the dry season.

Nelson (1984) cites 10 families of characoids with ca 252 genera and at least 1335 species, of which some 176 live in Africa, the rest in the Neotropics; no genera or species are common to Africa and the Neotropics. Characoids are, together with siluroid catfishes, the dominant fishes in South American freshwaters. The siluroids include about 30 families from tropical waters. Two of these, Ariidae and Plotosidae, which have become secondarily marine (about the only ostariophysan fishes to do so) are widely distributed, the former in all tropical regions Fig.

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