(Cichlasoma minckleyi)
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Geographic range: Neotropical: C. minckleyi is an endemic cychlid species from Cuatro Ciénegas in the Coahuila state in Mexico.

Physical characteristics: Size - around 20 cm. There are 3 distinct forms of this species differing in shape, pharyngeal dentition and length of intestine. Historically, these forms used to be viewed as separate species.
The most abundant form, also considered the most primitive one and ancestral to the other two, has a high body and thin papiliphormic pharyngeal teeth shaped to disintegrate soft food items. Jaw muscles are weak. The main food source is detritus. This form is also the most widely distributed one.

The second form, less abundant than the previous one and with area of distribution restricted to thermal pools in the vicinity of the point of Sierra San Marcos, has high body and strong molariphormic pharyngeal teeth used for grinding hard shells of endemic Mexipyrgus mollusks. Jaw muscles are strong. Also the length of the intestine is about 25 - 50% of the one of papiliphormic form.

The third form, restricted to very few thermal pools, has elongated body shape, which allows faster swimming, crucial for catching prey, which is represented by small fish species, mainly Axtyanax mexicanus. This form has both molariphormic and papiliphormic teeth. Its intestine is shorter than that of the papiliphormic form.

Food habits: Although the feeding habits strongly correlate with the morphology of the 3 different forms (above) and wild specimens invariably had only one kind of food items in their digestive tracts, studies showed that under experimental conditions of food abundance all kinds of food items are consumed.

Reproduction & Behavior: All three forms defend territories during the reproduction. The site for egg deposition is selected both by male and female; the vertical edge of the pool is usually preferred. The color of the dominant male is dark. On the other hand, almost entire female's body turns white contrasting with a few (3-4) black spots along its flanks and base of the tail.
Several hundreds of yellowish, 2 mm long eggs are deposited. Clutch is guarded by the female who also ensures a good water circulation in the area by movements of her pectoral fins. Female guards her offspring till they reach about 2 cm of size.

Crystal clear thermal springs and pools with very constant temperature, generally no bigger than 20m in diameter surrounded by very arid environment.

Conservation: endemic species with extremely restricted distribution


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