New species of Danakilia cichlid described


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A second species of the cichlid genus Danakilia has been described from northeastern Africa, named Danakilia dinicolai by Melanie Stiassny, Giuseppe De Marchi and Anton Lamboj in a recent issue of the journal Zootaxa.

Danakilia dinicolai differs from the only other species in the genus, D. franchettii, in having a longer pectoral fin, more robust and fewer oral teeth, and a longer lower pharyngeal jaw covered with finer, denser teeth in its posterior field.  It also differs from D. franchettii in some body proportions.

The new species is known only from Lake Abaeded, an isolated crater lake located in the Danakil Depression of Eritrea, which is about 160 km northwest of the only known location where D. franchettii occurs (Lake Adfera in Ethiopia). 

In fact, the authors initially thought that the new species was a population of D. franchettii, until they compared material collected from the two locations and realized that the Lake Abaeded population represented a new species.

According to the authors, this species is predominantly a grazer of algae growing on plants and rocks, as it had a very long, highly coiled gut that was filled with algae in the specimens examined. As the authors were able to catch the fish in lines baited with grasshoppers, it is likely that D. dinicolai is an opportunistic omnivore.

The water in the lake is very warm (29–45°C) and highly saline, with a pH of 7.5. The substrate consists predominantly of sand, and the shallower areas were covered with crater-like nests that were defended by large, colourful males (pictured at the top of the page). The female is shown below.


The new species is named in memory of Ernesto Di Nicola, a member of the 2001 expedition to Lake Abaeded who died in a car accident while returning from the lake.

For more information, see the paper: Stiassny, MLJ, G De Marchi and A Lamboj (2010) A new species of Danakilia (Teleostei, Cichlidae) from Lake Abaeded in the Danakil Depression of Eritrea (East Africa). Zootaxa 2690, pp. 43–52.