• Adaptive radiation;
  • amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP);
  • Malili Lakes;
  • natural selection;
  • sexual selection;
  • Telmatherina sp. (Telmatherinidae)

The significance of sympatric speciation is one of the most controversial topics in evolutionary biology. Theory suggests that different factors can lead to speciation in full geographical contact, including selection and nonrandom mating. Strict criteria have been established for assessing sympatric speciation, which have been met in only a very few cases. Here, we investigate differentiation among sympatric morphospecies and color morphs of “roundfin” sailfin silversides (Telmatherinidae), small freshwater fish endemic to ancient Lake Matano in Central Sulawesi (Indonesia). Morphospecies are distinct according to body shape (geometric morphometrics), population structure (population-level amplified fragment length polymorphism [AFLP] markers), ecology, and mating behavior (habitat transects, stomach contents). Explorative genome scans based on AFLPs indicate that divergent selection affects only 1.3–4.2% of the analyzed loci, suggesting an early stage of speciation. Transect data demonstrate strong assortative mating and adaptive niche differentiation. However, we find no restrictions in gene flow among the conspicuous male color morphs. In summary, our data are consistent with a sympatric mode of divergence among three morphospecies under conditions effectively ruling out allopatric scenarios. Substantial, but incomplete, reproductive isolation suggests an early stage of speciation, most likely due to ecological selection pressure.