New Metriaclima described

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Experts have described a colourful new species of mbuna from the Lake Malawi National Park.

Ad Konings and Jay Stauffer named the new cichlid Metriaclima flavifemina in a paper in the latest issue of the journal Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters.

Metriaclima flavifemina has been recorded from the rock-sand interface at several localities in the southern end of Lake Malawi, including Nakatenga Island, Thumbi West Island, Namalenje Island and Chidunga Rocks.

Female and juveniles of the species are described as "light blue-beige to all yellow with a bright yellow anal fin", giving them an M. barlowi-like appearance.

Males are pale blue with a yellow chest and opercula, a black interorbital stripe and a series of blue-black bars that are most prominent on the anterior end of the fish.

Like most mbuna, the different populations of flaviferma vary in colouration: "Males at Maleri and Nankoma islands and at Chidunga Rocks have a rusty-red to orange patch on the cheek and chin while such is absent in males of other populations.

"Females at Maleri and Nankoma islands and at Chindunga Rocks have a yellow head and body, while that in those other populations is grey-beige."

Males at Thumbi West Island also exhibit variable colouration of the dorsal fin, with some specimens having a black band running through the dorsal while others lack it.

The species lives in the intermediate zone between the rocks and the open sand in water ranging from 5-40m/16.4-131 ft deep.

Like most other mbuna, males are territorial and chase away rival males from their territories, which usually consist of a space between rocks, often with a sandy bottom.

Females are reportedly solitary or seen in small groups. The species feeds from the aufwuchs and takes loose algal strands and diatoms, like others in the Metriaclima genus.

The species has been known under a number of temporary names, including: Metriaclima sp. "Black Dorsal", Pseudotropheus zebra "Black Dorsal" and Pseudotropheus sp. "Black Dorsal heteropictus".

Konings and Stauffer believe that Metriaclima flavifemina is the last remaining cichlid in Ribbink's Pseudotropheus zebra complex found in the National Park that was awaiting formal description.

The species gets its species name "flavifemina" from the Latin "flavus" (yellow) and "femina" (female), which refers to the colouration of the female fish.

For more information see the paper: Konings AF and JR Stauffer Jr (2006) - Revised diagnosis of Metriaclima (Teleostei: Cichlidae) with description of a new species from Lake Malawi National Park. Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters, Vol. 17, No. 3. pp. 233-246.