Ecology and evolution of the African great lakes and their faunas

Walter Salzburger, Bert Van Bocxlaer, Andrew S. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

164 Scopus citations


The Great Lakes of East Africa are collectively the earth's most remarkable and species-rich freshwater feature. Intrinsic biological factors and extrinsic ecological opportunities allowed much of the lakes' spectacular biological diversity to evolve through evolutionary (often adaptive) radiation and explosive speciation. Beyond evolutionary patterns and processes that led to this remarkable biodiversity and its astonishing morphological disparity, we highlight ecosystem functioning and complex biotic interactions such as coevolution. Comparative biogeographic patterns for vertebrates and invertebrates are discussed, as are patterns of diversity and disparity through the late Cenozoic. We demonstrate that the African Great Lakes, because of excellent fossil archives, are a phenomenal setting to integrate micro-and macroevolution. Unfortunately, these amazing ecosystems are also subject to various anthropogenic stressors at global and regional scales, which have already impacted their stability and threaten part of their extraordinary biodiversity with extinction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)519-545
Number of pages27
JournalAnnual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics
StatePublished - Nov 23 2014


  • African Rift
  • adaptive radiation
  • biodiversity conservation
  • ecosystem functioning
  • morphological evolution
  • speciation
  • species flock

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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