Lamprologus lethops

Roberts and Stewart 1976

Lamprologus lethops
Lamprologus lethops. Photograph by Melanie Stiassny, used with permission.




Congo River:fw


Holotype: MCZ 50248. Paratype: MCZ 50249.


Type locality: Lower Congo River rapids near Bulu (5o1'S, 14o1'E). During a study of the Congo River Lamprologus species Schelly and Stiassny (2004) only had the holotype and paratype to study but later collection trips ???


Alter et al. (2015) used molecular methods to show that the sister species of L. lethops is L. tigripictilis Schelly and Stiassny 2004.

Schedel et al. (2018, 2019) recognize several novel mitochondrial lineages and one of them is proposed as a monophyletic clade for the Lamprologus of the Lower and Central Congo drainage, including Lamprologus lethops. The type species of the genus (Lamprologus congoensis Schilthuis 1891) is not part of this clade and it is likely that any future revision of the tribe Lamprologini will provide a replacement generic name for this group (L. mocquardi, L. markerti, L. tigripictilis, L. lethops, L. teugelsi and L. sp. Kwango).

Biological Notes

The lower Congo River, and especially the northern and southern rapids below Pool Malebo, are home to many endemic species (Roberts and Stewart 1976, Bailey 1986, Thieme et al. 2005, Mamonekene 2005, Alter et al. 2015, Alter et al. 2017, Stiassny 2016). In particular there are at least eleven species, in five Families, which exhibit the troglomorphic features of reduced eyes and pigment:


Channallabes apus (Günther 1873) Teugels 1986

Dolichallabes microphthalmus Poll 1942

Gymnallabes nops Roberts and Stewart 1976

Platyallabes tihoni (Poll 1944) Poll 1977


Notoglanidium pallidum Roberts and Stewart 1976


Mastacembelus aviceps Roberts and Stewart 1976

Mastacembelus brichardi (Poll 1958) Vreven 2005

Mastacembelus crassus Roberts and Stewart 1976

Mastacembelus latens Roberts and Stewart 1976


Lamprologus lethops Roberts and Stewart 1976


Stomatorhinus microps Boulenger 1898

These features probably evolved because these species live at depth within the rapids and spend their whole lives in permanent darkness, analagous to life in caves. The ocular and craniofacial anatomy of several of these species have been studied (Schobert et al. 2010, 2011, 2013) but almost nothing else is known about these animals.

Conservation Status


Moelants, T. 2010. Lamprologus lethops . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2010: e.T182930A8005445. Downloaded on 17 March 2020.

Internet Resources

Main page for the Congo Project

Elizabeth Alter's work on Congo fishes

New York Times article with good photographs

Convergent evolution in the Congo rapids

A fish with the bends

Melanie Stiassny video presentation on the Congo River fishes

Key References

Roberts, T.R. and Stewart, D.J. Journal Article 1976 An ecological and systematic survey of fishes in the rapids of the lower Zaire or Congo river
Decu, V., Juberthie, C. and Tercafs, R. Book Section 2001 Republique Democratique Du Congo (ex-Zaire)
Jackson, P.R., Oberg, K.A., Gardiner, N. and Shelton, J. Conference Paper 2009 Velocity mapping in the Lower Congo River: A first look at the unique bathymetry and hydrodynamics of Bulu Reach, West Central Africa
Schobert, C.S., Schwab, I.R., Stiassny, M.L., Schelly, R.C., Lowenstein, J.H., Zeiss, C. and Dubielzig, R.R. Journal Article 2010 ABSTRACT NO.: 004 Comparative ocular anatomy of four species of lower Congo River fish
Schobert, C.S., Stiassny, M.L.J. and Dubielzig, R.R. Journal Article 2011 ABSTRACT NO.: 12 Comparative ocular and craniofacial anatomy in nine species of lower Congo River fish
Schobert, C.S., Stiassny, M.L.J., Jeffery, W.D. and Dubielzig, R.R. Journal Article 2011 Comparative ocular Aanatomy In troglomorphic fish: Sensory compensation for reduced vision
Lucanus, O. Journal Article 2013 First notes on the husbandry of the blind cichlid Lamprologus lethops from the Congo River
Schobert, C.S., Stiassny, M.L.J., Schwab, I.R., Zeiss, C., Schelly, R.C. and Dubielzig, R.R. Journal Article 2013 Comparative occular anatomy in a blind African cichlid fish, Lamprologus lethops
Brawand, D. et al. Journal Article 2014 The genomic substrate for adaptive radiation in African cichlid fish
Alter, S.E., Brown, B. and Stiassny, M.L.J. Journal Article 2015 Molecular phylogenetics reveals convergent evolution in lower Congo River spiny eels
Stiassny, M.L.J. and Alter, S.E. Journal Article 2015 Phylogenetics of Teleogramma, a riverine clade of African cichlid fishes, with a description of the deep-water molluskivore —Teleogramma obama — from the lower reaches of the middle Congo River.
Alter, S.E., Munshi-South, J. and Stiassny, M.L.J. Journal Article 2017 Genomewide SNP data reveal cryptic phylogeographic structure and microallopatric divergence in a rapids adapted clade of cichlids from the Congo River
Schedel, F.D.B., Musilová, Z. and Schliewen, U.K. Conference Paper 2018 New divergence ages provide novel insights into the biogeographic rigin of the East African Cichlid Radiation (EAR)
Schedel, F.D.B., Musilova, Z. and Schliewen, U.K. Journal Article 2019 East African cichlid lineages (Teleostei: Cichlidae) might be older than their ancient host lakes: new divergence estimates for the east African cichlid radiation
Elbein, A. Web Page 2020 Earth’s deepest river conceals an evolutionary mystery
Aardema, M.L., Stiassny, M.L.J. and Alter, S.E. Journal Article 2020 Genomic analysis of the only blind Cichlid reveals extensive inactivation in eye and pigment formation genes
Stiassny, M.L. and Alter, S.E. Book Section 2021 Life in the fast lane: diversity, ecology, and speciation of cichlids in the lower Congo River
Lamprologus lethops on a hand. Photograph by the Americam Museum of Natural History, used with permission and courtesy Melanie Stiassny. Fish is c. 70mm long.