New haplochromine cichlid discovered in Egypt

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A new species of Haplochromis has been discovered during an expedition to Egypt, by German cichlid and catfish expert Erwin Schraml.

The stronghold of the haplochromine cichlids is East Africa, and only two species have been described from north Africa and the Middle East:  Haplochromis desfontainesi from Tunisia and Algeria, the type species of the genus Astatotilapia, and Haplochromis flaviijosephi from the Jordan drainage. The latter is the only species found naturally outside Africa.  No described species are known from Egypt, even though the Nile ultimately drains Lake Victoria, one of the strongholds of the haplochromines.

Erwin Schraml has now discovered a new species of “hap” during an expedition in Egypt to look for cichlids and other fishes, reported in the online journal eggspots.  The fish was discovered near the town of Ismailia and is provisionally termed Haplochromis sp. “Ismailia” to reflect its origins.  

Schraml has compared the new cichlid with desfontainesi and flaviijosephi, these being the only two described species found even remotely near Egypt, and confirmed that the Ismailia form is quite distinct.  

The new species was found in a side channel of the Ismailia canal, mainly beneath marginal plants trailing in the water or among submerse vegetation.  Live specimens were taken back to Germany and have already been bred.  The species is small and apparently a seasonal breeder; males are fairly aggressive when breeding.  As with most haplochromines, only the males are colourful.

The dentition of the species is particularly interesting as it is different in males and females.  This phenomenon is already known from a small number of other “haps”, and in some cases at least the sex-linking of the teeth is known to reflect a different diet, as might be expected.  The teeth of the “Ismailia” are also interesting in having dark interior elements visible through the enamel.  It is at present unknown what this apparently unique feature signifies.

For further information and photos see:  Schraml, E. (1910) In search of haplochromines in Egypt – part 1. Ismailia, and A comparison of Haplochromis sp. “Ismailia” with other North African species, both published in eggspots no. 4.