Background: Phylogenies provide critical information about convergence during adaptive radiation. To test whether there have been multiple origins of a distinctive trophic phenotype in one of the most rapidly radiating groups known, we used ultra-conserved elements (UCEs) to examine the evolutionary affinities of Lake Malawi cichlids lineages exhibiting greatly hypertrophied lips. Results: The hypertrophied lip cichlids Cheilochromis euchilus, Eclectochromis ornatus, Placidochromis "Mbenji fatlip", and Placidochromis milomo are all nested within the non-mbuna clade of Malawi cichlids based on both concatenated sequence and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) inferred phylogenies. Lichnochromis acuticeps that exhibits slightly hypertrophied lips also appears to have evolutionary affinities to this group. However, Chilotilapia rhoadesii that lacks hypertrophied lips was recovered as nested within the species Cheilochromis euchilus. Species tree reconstructions and analyses of introgression provided largely ambiguous patterns of Malawi cichlid evolution. Conclusions: Contrary to mitochondrial DNA phylogenies, bifurcating trees based on our 1024 UCE loci supported close affinities of Lake Malawi lineages with hypertrophied lips. However, incomplete lineage sorting in Malawi tends to render these inferences more tenuous. Phylogenomic analyses will continue to provide powerful inferences about whether phenotypic novelties arose once or multiple times during adaptive radiation.
- Adaptive radiation
- East African Rift Lakes