A new cichlid fish in the Sahara: The Ounianga Serir lakes (Chad), a biodiversity hotspot in the desert

  • Trape S
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In the rare perennial bodies of water of the Sahara desert, only a few fish species have survived to increasing aridification since the end of the last humid period at the Holocene, approximately 5000 years BP. Here, I report the occurrence of an undescribed haplochomine cichlid fish in Lake Boukou, one of the seven Ounianga Serir lakes (Chad). These lakes are located in one of the most arid areas of the Sahara desert, but they persist by virtue of subsurface inflow of fresh groundwater from a large fossil aquifer. Astatotilapia tchadensis sp. nov. is characterized by a black bar between eye and corner of mouth, rounded orange spots on anal fin, scales ctenoid, lower limb of first gill arch with 7–8 gill rackers, dorsal fin with 13–14 spines and 9–11 soft rays, anal fin with 3 spines and 8–9 soft rays, 29 or 30 lateral line scales, and lower pharyngeal dentition with enlarged molariform teeth. The new species is easily distinguished from A. desfontainii and A. flaviijosephii, the northernmost haplochromine species currently isolated from its other group members, and appears close to an unnamed species of Lake Chad basin. Ounianga Serir lakes and especially Lake Boukou present a remarkable diversity of fish, the highest known in the Sahara desert with a total of at least six fish species belonging to six genera and three families. They also constitute an exceptional natural landscape inscribed on the UNESCO world heritage list in 2012 and a biodiversity hotspot for desert vertebrate species.




Trape, S. (2016). A new cichlid fish in the Sahara: The Ounianga Serir lakes (Chad), a biodiversity hotspot in the desert. Comptes Rendus Biologies, 339(11–12), 529–536. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.crvi.2016.08.003

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