Biodiversity II: Can you say ‘cichlid’?

Dec 2nd, 2010 | By | Category: Youth Blog

At the risk of repeating  myself, I’m going to blog again about biodiversity, but this time I’d like to talk about animals. A professor with whom I’ve taken a few classes is going this winter to visit Lake Victoria in Africa to study the resident species there, and so I was thinking it would be appropriate to talk about Lake Victoria and why it’s significant to biologists.

Cichlids, which are a tiny kind of fish that (kind of like Pelargonium) is only interesting to two kinds of people: people who have cichlids as pets, and biologists. (Yeah, we’re lame, I know.) But what’s interesting about cichlids is that they somehow ended up in Lake Victoria after some kind of colonization event – from the ocean. That’s right, it seems that just one or two species colonized the lake that, up until recently, held around 450 species of cichlids, all of different sizes, colors and food preferences (does this remind anyone of a certain Dr. Seuss book?).

And then, something bad happened: there was a 451th fish – and that wouldn’t be too bad, except for the fact that it was a Nile Perch, a fish that can get to be almost 5 feet in length and tends to eat everything in its path. Including cichlids. 200 species worth of cichlids. Why, you ask with horror, would such a fish ever be introduced into a lake in the first place? The answer is simple: five feet of fish feeds a lot of people. So kind of as a follow-up to Meera’s post about the meat industry, I’d like to say that as citizens we have a responsiblity to think about what we eat and where it came from… and what it’s done along the way. Extinction is no laughing matter.

p.s. A final comment: even though most comments get removed from the site, we bloggers can still see them: so if you have any questions for me or topics you’d like me to discuss in a post within reason, just leave me a note and I’d be happy to talk about it in my next blog post.

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