Evolutionary ecology of cichlids and gobies
​Female jaguar cichlid defending her offspring in Lake Xiloá, Nicaragua
​The family of cichlid fishes (Cichlidae) with more than 2000 freshwater species has been one of the prime systems for studies of speciation and other evolutionary processes. The geographic distribution of cichlids is particularly intriguing in Nicaragua, where several crater lakes are inhabited by dense communities of closely related species. A population of Nicaraguan cichlids has also been introduced in temperate Australia, where this isolated, yet phenotypically diverse, population flourishes with the help of continuous warm water discharge from a power plant.

We aim at understanding the mechanisms and consequences of competitive interactions within and between cichlid species. We are particularly interested in behavioural patterns that are relevant in the context of (colour) polymorphism and speciation processes. For this purpose, we study both natural Nicaraguan cichlid populations and the unique Australian population, combining methodological tools such as direct observation and manipulation of behaviour in the field, laboratory assessment of behaviour, morphological measurements, dietary analyses, and population genetic assays.

Another important line of our research focuses on the ecology of fascinating gobies, especially the sand goby (Pomatoschistus minutus) from the Finnish coast of the Baltic Sea, and the desert goby (Chlamydogobius eremius), which dwells in very unusual habitats for a fish: salty water pockets and desert springs in Central Australia.  Here, the most important research themes have been sexual selection and parental care. In particular, we have investigated research questions relating to, among other things, habitat choice, consistency of reproductive behaviours; filial cannibalism, male courtship behaviour, and context-dependent variation in mate choice.


Main collaborators