Prof. George Francis Turner



Location: Memorial G24

Phone: 2349

Research: Cichlid Fish Biology & Evolution

My research is focussed on African cichlid fish, mainly from Malawi and Tanzania. I am interested in everything about these fish. Above all, I work on their incredible speciation and adaptive radiation.

There are hundreds of unique species of these fish in Lakes Malawi, Tanganyika and Victoria, and many more in other smaller lakes too. I want to know how they are evolving and why cichlids seem especially prone to this, because there are plenty of other kinds of fish in these lakes too and they are not evolving so spectacularly. My approach is based on fieldwork and behavioural and morphological studies of the fish in the lab, but vital insights into the evolution of these fish can only come from collaborating with molecular biologists and bioinformaticians. I tend to focus mostly on the early stages of evolutionary divergence: how does a species split in two? I am also interested in sorting out the origins of the fish in the lakes, in the behaviour and ecology of cichlid fish, in the basic taxonomy and identification of species and in getting information that is helpful in advising local agencies in how to conserve the fish while maintaining sustainable fisheries and other livelihoods based on freshwater fishes.

I am happy to work with graduate students or research fellows in any of these areas.

Teaching & Supervision

Projects on cichlid fish behaviour, evolution and taxonomy. Student-designed projects involving behavioural study of vertebrates in zoos or in the field. Lectures on Animal Behaviour and Systematics & Diversity.

Undergraduate and postgraduate students have the opportunity to take projects with me on cichlid fish biology. Most projects involve the study of mate choice or territorial aggression with live fish in our tropical aquarium. There is also the opportunity to work on morphology of preserved specimens, either to describe new species or to look at adaptive changes among populations. Occasionally, there may be opportunities to come with me on fieldwork to Malawi or Tanzania. Also, I usually supervise student-designed projects involving behavioural study of vertebrates in zoos or in the field, for example through Operation Wallacea. With these projects, I help with data analysis and presentation of the results. I currently lecture on Animal Behaviour and Systematics & Diversity. In 2013, my module evaluations ranged from 73-92% positive.

Administration and Leadership


  • SBS Board of Studies
  • CNS Research Committee