By R. H. Lowe-McConnell

Tropical fish current the superior examples of the way new species evolve and the way complicated ecological groups are maintained. Their learn has generated very important new principles at the roles of ecology and behavior within the evolution of species and groups. This booklet brings jointly for the 1st time the result of extensively scattered study on fish in tropical rivers, lakes and seas, study that has been encouraged via the luxurious possibilities to watch the behaviour of fish of their normal habitats within the transparent hot waters. The booklet opens with an outline of the ecology of tropical freshwater and marine environments and their linked fish faunas, after which provides a couple of freshwater experiences drawn from the African, South American, Asian and New Guinea tropics. particular attention is given to the hot man-made lakes that have supplied large-scale experiments at the switch of riverine fish groups to lacustrine ones, and to the good lakes of East Africa for examples of contemporary species evolution.

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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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