Although the cichlids of Lake Malawi are an important model system for the study of sensory evolution and sexual selection, the evolutionary processes linking these two phenomena remain unclear. Prior works have proposed that evolutionary divergence is driven by sensory drive, particularly as it applies to the visual system.While evidence suggests that sensory drive has played a role in the speciation of Lake Victoria cichlids, the findings fromseveral lines of research on cichlids of LakeMalawi are not consistent with the primary tenets of this hypothesis. More specifically, three observations make the sensory drive model implausible in Malawi: (i) a lack of environmental constraint due to a broad and intense ambient light spectrum in species rich littoral habitats, (ii) pronounced variation in receiver sensory characteristics, and (iii) pronounced variability in male courtship signal characteristics. In the following work, we synthesize the results from recent studies to draw attention to the importance of sensory variation in cichlid evolution and speciation, and we suggest possible avenues of future research.
Smith, Adam R.; van Staaden, Moira J.; and Carleton, Karen L., "An Evaluation of the Role of Sensory Drive in the Evolution of Lake Malawi Cichlid Fishes" (2012). Biological Sciences Faculty Publications. 43.
International Journal of Evolutionary Biology