Darwin’s Dreampond

Tijs Goldschmidt. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1998.

This is a remarkable account of the natural history of Lake Victoria cichlid fishes, and much more. It presents the story of a Dutch fish taxonomist who happened to be studying the very diverse assemblage of fishes in this great African freshwater sea when the colorful cichlids he was classifying were driven to extinction. The introduction of a “commercial” fish on the Ugandan shore in the 1950s in an attempt to develop the fishing industry caused the tragedy. The fish chosen was the Nile perch, a predatory fish with a voracious appetite. The Nile perch spread over the lake, eating their way through the cichlids. By 1990 all the open water cichlids were extinct, and half the others. A biological tragedy, the introduction proved a commercial success, Nile perch now providing the basis of a thriving fishing industry.

Dr. George Johnson