"Going back and changing names for fish as popular as these is no easy matter," said Chakrabarty. "Renaming some of these is going to cause me a lot of grief. It's like changing a long-standing tradition to some people to them, it's just better left alone."
But a better understanding of this fish family could translate to a better understanding of the planet we live on, and perhaps, even of our own human history.
"Cichlids have been around since all the southern hemisphere continents were one," said Chakrabarty. "Understanding their current distribution gives us a better idea of how Earth history has changed over millions of years." For instance, Cuba was once two islands, and the nation of Hispanola was three separate landmasses. "You can still see fossils from the ocean floor on the highest peaks of mountains there."
Geography plays an interesting role in the life of cichlids, which are primarily freshwater fish, though many species of the family appear exotic, more like saltwater species.
"Freshwater is rare in the world. That's hard for most people to comprehend," said Chakrabarty. "If the world's water supply fills a bathtub, a scooped handful would be all the freshwater available. However, out of the 25,000 named species of fish described, around half of them are freshwater, so it produces incredible diversity."
But because geography places insurmountable limitations on freshwater fish in other words, freshwater species cannot live in saltwater, so they are restricted to the landmass on which their native lake or water supply calls home it helps researchers identify species.
"We can tell that the species of blind cave fish we discovered in Madagascar are related to the blind cave fish we find in Australia," said Chakrabarty. "They all originated from the same place, and because they're freshwater, we know th
|Contact: Ashley Berthelot|
Louisiana State University