Top critical review
This book should be revised and a second edition published!
Reviewed in the United States on June 21, 1998
I am interested in the broader issues of the natural history of the region and find the Cichlid speciation fascinating. I never really thought about it but it seems to me that the formation of the world's 2nd largest body of fresh water from upland tropical streams would naturally result in a setting favorable to rapid speciation. Nevertheless, the book could have benefitted from better editing. I am not a biologist, so some of the biological descriptions were tough slogging. I am more than a little bit confused by the definition of every new looking fish as a species - we have lots of different looking dogs, from chihuahuas to Great Danes, which in some sense occupy different 'ecological niches', but these are not different species. I wonder whether the hundreds of different Cichlid species identified in Lake Victoria really evolved in that short of a time period, particularly since their ability to interbreed was not discussed. As a geologist, I would have liked to see more description of how the lake formed - I believe the lake formed in the last 12,000 years from tectonic uplift on the flanks of the Western Rift - and this should have been presented. Also, what do we know about the Cichlid species that lived in the upland streams 12,000 years ago that would have provided the rootstalk for the lake 'species flock'? I also would have liked more figures, maybe even a color plate or two. All of these criticisms aside, this is a 'must-read' book for people interested in Darwinian evolution. The two themes that are central in this book - tremendous diversification if not speciation of Cichlids over the past 12,000 years and extinction of Cichlids over the past 15 years following introduction of the Nile Perch - is a fascinating and fundamental 'fish story'.