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Diversification dynamics of freshwater bivalves (Unionidae: Parreysiinae: Coelaturini) indicate historic hydrographic connections throughout the East African Rift SystemInvertebrates are exceptionally diverse, but many are in decline because of anthropogenic changes to their habitat. This situation is particularly problematic for taxa that are not well monitored or taxonomically poorly understood, because the lack of knowledge hampers conservation. Despite their important functional role in freshwater ecosystems, African bivalves of the family Unionidae remain poorly studied compared to their highly threatened relatives in Europe, the U.S.A. and Canada. To resolve relationships and to study diversification dynamics in space and time, we performed time-calibrated phylogenetic studies and biogeographical modeling on the unionids from the East African Rift System and surroundings, including representatives of all currently recognized Afrotropical genera except for Brazzaea (and Unio from southern Africa). Our analyses indicate that all sampled Afrotropical unionids belong to the tribe Coelaturini (subfamily Parreysiinae), as does the genus Moncetia from Lake Tanganyika, which is currently attributed to the family Iridinidae. Colonization of Africa from Eurasia by Parreysiinae occurred ~17 Ma ago, and the subsequent diversification of Coelaturini in Africa continued at a steady pace, although net diversification decreased over time as more niches and ecoregions became occupied. Clades in Coelaturini largely reflect drainage basins, with the oldest lineages and highest regional diversity occurring in Lake Tanganyika, followed by the Congo Basin watershed in general. The species assemblage of Lake Tanganyika reflects multiple independent events of colonization and intralacustrine diversification since the Late Miocene or Early Pliocene. The clades of other regions, including that containing the species from Lake Malawi, are comparatively young. Biogeographical analyses indicate that the colonization history was mainly driven by cladogenesis in sympatry, whereas few anagenetic events contributed to the modern distribution of Coelaturini. Ancestral range estimations demonstrate that Coelaturini originated in the Victoria and/or Tanganyika ecoregions, and that the Congo Basin played an essential role in the colonization of Africa by Coelaturini.