‘Fee Fi Fo Fum.’ In the fairy tale Jack and The Beanstalk, the giant eats up innocent children. This tale came to mind when I was at the S.E.A. Aquarium, viewing the exhibits on cichlids.
In numerous cichlid species the mother will ‘gobble up’ her young but unlike the giant, the mother does not to cause harm to the young cichlids. Instead, it uses this behaviour to protect them from danger.
When the young sense ocean predators, they will quickly swim into the mother’s mouth. In fact, some opportunistic fish that happens to be around may also sneak in for protection!
All species of cichlids show some form of parental care as parents for their eggs and young. Cichlids use their mouths a lot in the raising of their offspring.
After mating, the females will keep the eggs in their mouths to ensure that they are safe from predators. The young cichlids will have a better chance of survival compared to other eggs that float in the wild. Such is the motherly care of the cichlids.
Cichlids are from the family Cichlidae, members of a group known as the Labroidei. This family is both large and diverse, including familiar names like the tilapia, and also popular fish kept in the home aquarium such as oscars, angelfish and discus.
However, the declining population of the Cichlid species is a cause for concern. In 2010, the International Union for Conservation of Nature labelled 184 Cichlid species as vulnerable, 52 as endangered and 106 as critically endangered.
Cichlid decrease due to declining mangrove swamps
One of the reasons for decreasing population of the cichlids is the gradual loss of mangrove swamps and freshwater marshes. These areas are natural habitats of the cichlids and many other marine species.
Coastal pollution and land reclamation are the main threats to these swamps and marshes. Mangroves are important not only to organisms living in them but also to humans living nearby. Mangroves have been known to provide protection to villages against typhoons and tsunamis.
Perhaps, with evidence like these, we will start to protect our environment more and ensure that species like the cichlids are here to stay.
About the writers
Agatha and Yan Ling are students from Millennia Institute who writes for MI Wired, an online platform for students to showcase their writing. They are advocates for social and environmental causes.