Cichlid Room Companion

Focus Central America

A short introduction to Focus Central America: The aims and scope

By , 2005.
Last updated on 01-Nov-2005

Michi Tobler, 2005

Though the Central American cichlid fauna is well described on the species level, the ecology and evolution as well as the generic affiliation of many species is still unclear. After Kullander (1983) restricted the genus Cichlasoma to some South American species around C. bimaculatus, many cichlid species from Central America were left without a valid generic affiliation. Various authors started to reuse names that were proposed before 1983 and up to that time viewed as synonyms to Cichlasoma. However, the use of the different generic names and the assignment of the species to the genera was highly inconsistent among hobbyists as well as among scientists (see e.g. Burgess & Walls (1993) and Burgess (2000) vs. Stawikowski & Werner (1998)).

Finally, Kullander (2003) provided the first complete scientific listing of the Central American cichlids for a long time. He admits that the generic assignment of Central American taxa is "a source of frustration". Since the checklist is only a list and none of the taxonomic changes is accompanied by a statement, the justification of many changes are sometimes difficult to understand. Furthermore, a close look to the Central American cichlids shows that Kullander (2003) used a rather conservative way grouping the species into the different genera, lumping species together so that many genera might in fact not be monophyletic. Recent results of phylogenetical studies using molecular methods (e.g. Martin & Bermingham, 1998; Hulsey et al. 2004) provide evidence that the current view of grouping the Central American cichlids is not consistent with the actual phylogenetic relationships. This view is also supported by work using morphological methods (Rican, personal communication). Thus, as our knowledge of the evolution of Central American cichlids rises, there might be further changes in the taxonomy.

This website attempts to neutrally report on knowlege about the evolution and the taxonomy of Central American cichlids in trying to comprehend the facts behind Kullander's list as well as provide alternative views. For that purpose, publications in scientific and popular scientific journals are reviewed. Furthermore, everybody is encouraged to provide personal comments on specific topics. New ideas and views, either based on solid data or just purely hypothetical, are highly welcome. Future changes to the checklist, however, will only be added on the basis of new taxonomic publications providing new data and knowledge about the evolution of Central American cichlids.

Equally important, we want to offer a plattform for any observations and reports on the behavior and ecology of Central American cichlids. Although many species are very popular among hobbyists, very little is known about the actual life of these fish in their natural habitats. Since systematic studies are very rare, even single observations may provide new insights in the biology of Central American cichlids and ultimatively trigger new research projects.

In that sense: I'm looking forward to the discussions and hope that we receive a wealth of contributions from people with different perspectives!

Disclaimer: This website is not to be considered as published in the sense of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, and statements made herein are not made available for nomenclatural purposes from this website.

References (6):


Tobler, Michi. (November 01, 2005). "A short introduction to Focus Central America: The aims and scope". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on January 23, 2019, from: