A new species of Haplochromis has been discovered in Egypt, in a rather unlikely location!
Erwin Schraml and Andreas Dunz from Germany have recently conducted an ichthyological exploration of Egypt, primarily in search of cichlids. Schraml has now reported the discovery of a previously unknown species of Haplochromis in the rather unlikely habitat of an irrigation canal along the "desert road" from Cairo to Alexandria. This road actually crosses the eastern margin of the Sahara close to the western edge of the Nile Delta!
Schraml has examined the species in detail and compared it morphometrically with the other species known from the Egypt/Levant region, the described H. flaviijosephii and the undescribed H. sp. "Ismailia" discovered during the same expedition and previously reported on the PFK website a few months ago. There is apparently no doubt that it is a distinct and undescribed new species.
Live specimens were brought back to Europe and attempts made to breed them, but males proved extremely aggressive towards conspecifics so breeding success wasn’t achieved. The species proved otherwise easy to keep.
The discovery of this new species, like that of H. sp. "Ismailia", raises some interesting questions. Why have these species gone unremarked before? Have they evolved recently through adaptation to artificial habitats created by Man? If so, what are their ancestors? Or have they been in existence for millennia and simply been overlooked? Could North Africa be home to far more small cichlids than previously realised?
Because Egypt is regarded as largely a desert country and the Nile was studied fairly extensively by ichthyologists early on, it is not nowadays seen as an Eldorado for fishes or ichthyological study, so this new research is greatly to be welcomed.
For further information see: Schraml, E. (2011) In search of haplochromines in Egypt - 2. On the road to Alexandria. eggspots 5: 5-16. www.worldfish.de.