Friday, April 8, 2011

The Chimbenje, a foxy cichlid.


Amongst the over 1000 cichlids that populate Lake Malawi's depths one of my favorites is the Chimbenje (Fossiochromis rostratus). In the local language here Chimbenje means "fox." This cichlid has earned that name by being particularly good at avoiding fishermen's nets. The chimbenje generally like to hang out in the shallow, sandy, near shore waters of the lake. They are one of the first cichlids that I was able to identify simply because they are so easily accessible. If you are walking through the water they tend to follow behind you in a small pack because as you walk you are digging up the detritus that they eat. This should mean that they are also very vulnerable to a fishermen's seine net which is simply dragged along the lake floor in shallow water, picking up whatever is too slow to avoid it. However the Chimbenje have learned to actually burrow themselves temporarily into the sand in order to avoid these indiscriminate and deadly nets and thus have earned foxy title. In the picture the blue fella is the fella and the white one is the gal.


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