Of the three cichlid species flocks in eastern Africa, Lake Tanganyika harbors the oldest species assemblage, which is also the most diverse morphologically and behaviorally. For 12 species (20 individuals) of 12 genera of the tribe Ectodini, 852 bp from two segments (cytochrome b and control region) of the mitochondrial genome were sequenced. In addition, orthologous sequences were obtained from eight species (11 individuals) representing other mouthbrooding lineages from Lake Tanganyika. Comparisons of sequence divergences revealed that the single Tanganyikan tribe Ectodini appears to be approximately five times older than the whole Lake Malawi cichlid species flock, suggesting that the radiation of the Tanganyikan mouthbrooding lineages took place long before the species flocks of Lakes Malawi and Victoria evolved. Seven of nine surveyed tribes of Tanganyikan cichlids appear to be approximately equally divergent, and this seems to corroborate the hypothesis of a rapid simultaneous formation of lineages at an early stage in the history of the Lake Tanganyika species flock. The close genetic relationship between the endemic Tropheus lineage and a nonendemic "Haplochromine," Astatotilapia burtoni, indicates that members of the tribe Tropheini may be the sister group of the cichlid flocks of Lakes Malawi and Victoria. The phylogenetic analyses demonstrate the monophyly of the Ectodini and identify the Cyprichromini as their sister group among the Tanganyikan cichlids. Within the tribe Ectodini the molecular data suggest both a branching pattern different than that previously proposed and a subdivision of the Ectodini into four clades, instead of the two originally described. The previously postulated model of morphological transformations believed to be responsible for the drastically different types of ecological specialization found among the Ectodini might therefore be in need of reinterpretation. Characters immediately related to foraging and nutrition seem to be particularly prone to homoplasy, even among members of a single lineage of cichlid fishes.