Subterranean Fishes of Africa
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Subterranean Fishes of Africa book
The extension of Africa comprising temperate to tropical latitudes, with a great quantity of different ecosystems, makes it an extremely variegated continent with high levels of biodiversity. A few zones have been explored from a biospeleological point of view, nonetheless the results obtained so far show a great subterranean diversity. Most of the biospeleological research begun in the fi rst decades of the twentieth century and was achieved on Eastern (Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia) Northern (especially Morocco) Central (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Southern (Namibia and S. Africa) Africa and on Madagascar. Several researchers explored these territories and collected a large amount of zoological material. It is in these years that the geographic and naturalistic exploration led to the discovery of the majority of the species of African stygobitic fi shes, distributed only in the sub-Saharan hydrographical systems. The fi rst cave dwelling fi sh was a little cyprinid discovered in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Belgian Congo, at that time) and it is the fi rst subterranean fi sh in the world that was offi cially protected. Among the eight valid species of fi shes known for the Afrotropical Region, six were described between 1921 and 1936. The beginning of the World War II, followed by the instability due to decolonization, was the cause of a long interruption of naturalistic research in Africa. This is the
reason why for the description of the two new African subterranean fi shes, we have to wait for the second half of the century. It is also in this period that an extensive biological, physiological and behavioural research was conducted by Belgian and Italian researcher on the stygobitic fi shes respectively from Central and Eastern Africa. The present chapter enlightens how much is known about the distribution, biology and eco-physiology of each of the fi sh species inhabiting the subterranean waters of the African continent.