Central American cichlids from various phylogenetic groups show a stricking color polymorphism in natural populations that remind at the polymorphisms known from haplochromine cichlids in the great lakes of the African rift valley. Beside the normal color morph, these species show an alternative color morph which is usually named "golden" or "yellow" morph. These alternative morphs are characterized by a ground coloration that ranges from whitish to yellow to orange, and covers sometimes only parts but usually the full body.
The alternative color morphs coexist apparently stable in the same habitats with the normal morphs. The color pattern of fish have important biological functions including camouflage and communication. It can thus be assumed that aberrantly colored individuals have severe disadvantages in terms of survival (e.g. higher conspicuousness to predators) and maybe even in terms of reproductive succes (e.g. disadvantages in mate choice or in communication during courtship (mate-mate-interactions) and breeding (parents-offspring-interactions)). If this is the case, golden morphs should be counterselected by natural and sexual selection and become extinct. Apparently, the alternative morphs can at least partially cope with the potential disadvantages. Although the questions on the stability of such color polymorphisms has been adressed by George Barlow and his students, our knowlege about this phenomenon is still fragmentary.
Golden morphs have been reported from following Central American cichlids:
|Amphilophus citinellus||Lago Nicaragua, Nicaragua||Meek, 1907; Barlow, 1976|
|Amphilophus labiatus||Lago Nicaragua, Nicaragua||Barlow & Munsey, 1976|
|Amphilophus sagittae||Laguna de Xiloa, Nicaragua||McKaye, et. al., 2002; Stauffer & McKaye, 2002|
|Amphilophus xiloaensis||Laguna de Xiloa, Nicaragua||McKaye, et. al., 2002; Stauffer & McKaye, 2002|
|Cuatro Cienegas, México||Konings, 1994|
|Laguna Arenal, Costa Rica||Barlow, 1972|
|Petenia splendida||Rio Candelaria, Guatemala; White Water Creek, Belize||Hubbs, 1935; Stawikowski & Werner, 1998|
|Vieja fenestrata||Lago Catemaco, México||Staeck, 1998|
|Petenia splendida male of the red form in the aquarium of Don Danko; Cleveland, Ohio. This natural variety is known as the Red Bay Snook. Photo by Don Danko|
|Paratheraps fenestratus male of the pink form from Catemaco lake, Papaloapan river system, in the aquarium of Don Danko; Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by Don Danko Determiner Juan Miguel Artigas Azas|