Wellcome Sanger Institute
Sanger Institute Science Collaboration

Malawi cichlid genome project

With more than 600 young and ecologically diverse species, the adaptive radiation of Lake Malawi cichlid fish provides a superb system to study speciation and the evolution of species biodiversity.

At the Sanger Institute, we are working to create extensive genomic resources for Lake Malawi cichlids that are available to the research community. Up until the end of 2015 we sequenced more than 150 samples of more than 70 species that span all of the radiation. We are currently analysing these samples and will release genetic variation data in 2016. We are also working on an improved reference genome for Astatotilapia calliptera using long reads. Genomic resources are available here.

On field trip in February/March 2016, we collected samples from ~240 species, including over 1400 tissue samples for DNA sequencing, 1300 preserved specimens that will form a collection at the University Museum of Zoology in Cambridge, and 250 tissue samples from 12 species for RNA sequencing. We also obtained high quality photographs for each of the specimens.

Sanger people

Photo of Dr Mingliu Du

Dr Mingliu Du

post-doctoral fellow

Photo of Dr Richard Durbin

Dr Richard Durbin

Associate Faculty

Photo of Dr Hannes Svardal

Dr Hannes Svardal

Postdoctoral Fellow

Photo of Eric Miska

Eric Miska

Associate Faculty/Group Leader

External partners and funders


George Turner's Group

Bangor University

We closely collaborate with Prof. Turner and his group at Bangor University who have strong expertise in Malawi cichlid evolutionary biology, taxonomy, behaviour and ecology.


Walter Salzburger's Group

University of Basel

Prof. Salzburger and his group work on similar questions mainly in the Lake Tanganyika cichlid adaptive radiation. Collaborations include the study of convergent evolution across the lake systems, and the evolutionary history of east-African haplochromine cichlids.


Dr. Martin Genner

University of Bristol

Dr. Genner's group have strong expertise in cichlid ecology, evolution, and phylo-geography.