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   If a family reunion were held among the type of fish called Cichlids in Africa's vast Lake Victoria, the entire population would have to be invited. For even though the nearly 200 different species of Cichlids in the lake vary widely in size, shape and breeding habits, they are all possibly recent descendants of the same ancestral population. This is the recent conclusion of scientists at the University of California at Berkeley who discovered that the genetic makeup of the different species is remarkably similar. In fact, there is less variation in the genes in Lake Victoria's gallimaufry of Cichlids than among the genes of the human race. 

   These findings demonstrate that the evolution of an animal's overall shape and evolution of its genes "march to the beat of a different drummer". So says University of Georgia geneticist John Avise. The fishes' family tree is a stunning example of what researchers call an "explosive evolution", wherein hundreds of species arise from a common ancestor - all in an extremely short time.

   Why the Cichlids evolved so rapidly is still a mystery, but like the famed finches of the Galapagos Islands, whose diversity inspired Darwin to his theory of natural selection, the new discovery is expected to help scientists fine-tune their understanding of the biological and geographical forces that cause new species to arise.

Melanochromis Johanni have been a staple in the African Cichlid department since their introduction in the early 1970's. The juveniles are a bright orange yellow color. Males, as they mature, darken in color; a dominant male is black with horizontal blue bands. This variety will start to "color up" at around two inches in length.

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