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Metriaclima Vs. Maylandia
by Brett Harrington (aka Fogelhund)

One of the most confusing aspects of the cichlid hobby, can be learning all of these Latin words, that are used to name the fish. It seems, that once you just get to learn some of the names, they get changed. But what happens, when even the scientific community cannot agree on what to call our fish? You will see throughout this website, across the Internet, and through the press magazines and books, both Maylandia, and Metriaclima used to describe the same fishes. Many people do get confused, and wonder if they are different fish, but in fact, they are two different names attempting to describe fish which are the same.

So, how exactly did this come to happen, and which is the more correct name?

I am not going to try and persuade you one way or the other as to which is more correct, but I will provide you with the basic arguments that each side uses. Suffice it to say, this is an argument as much about semantics as it is anything else.

The genus that these fish came from derive from was Pseudotropheus (Regan 1922), but the genus allowed for subgenera within it. The “zebra” group and affiliates were part of this subgroup, and were placed into a newly formed genus Maylandia by Meyer and Foerster (1984). The genus was named in honour of Hans Mayland, a noted ichthyologist. This change was generally accepted at the time, and the “zebra” group, were then known a Maylandia. Meyer & Foerster provided a diagnosis and a M. greshakeidescription of Maylandia and its type species, M. greshakei, though the description did have its flaws, proponents called them “minor”. The rules of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) put forth how fish are named, and how these names can be disputed if someone finds them to be invalid. The ICZN also states that when two names have been proposed, and neither disputed, then the senior name is to be favoured. Given that Maylandia has never been properly disputed using ICZN protocol and steps, supporters of Maylandia conclude it must have preference. Those who challenge the name, suggest that Maylandia in itself means nothing (given it is not descriptive, but a name in honour of someone, which is typical for species names, but not for genus), and that the description is flawed.

In 1997, the group of Stuaffer, Bowers, Kellogg and McKaye came to the conclusion that Maylandia was nomen nudum (latin for means nothing) and thus an invalid name. They proposed that Metriaclima be the name for the “zebra” group from Pseudotropheus. They provided a full description of the genus, that they believe to be without the flaws in the Maylandia description.

So in summary, Maylandia was proposed first, meets the ICZN requirements, but is not perfect for a couple of reasons. Another group suggested Metriaclima would more correct, but didn’t go through the correct process and protocol to have the Maylandia name overruled. It basically is an argument over semantics and protocol, although one can’t wonder if there is more to it. Until such time as there is an official agreement, (hah!) both names will be used and at least for hobbyist purposes, both are correct, for now. □

 

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