The behavioral significance of color patterns has been widely investigated in cichlid fishes (Perciformes; Cichlidae), whereas the ontogeny of cichlid color patterns has received less attention. We examined the ontogeny of melanistic pattern elements in the convict cichlid, Cichlasoma nigrofasciatum. Live juvenile convict cichlids, from hatching through age 88 days, were photographed using a dissecting microscope. Based upon this photographic record, we have characterized the sequential, intermediate phases of color pattern development in the convict cichlid. Convict cichlid fry hatch three days postfertilization with (horizontal) stripes and diffuse cranial and ventral chromatophores. Vertical bars develop gradually and are initiated as midlaterally incomplete semibars. This pigment pattern ontogeny appears similar to some, but not all, previously characterized cichlids.
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Vol. 2002 • No. 1