Lake Victoria harbors a unique species-rich flock of more than 500 endemic haplochromine cichlid fishes. The origin, age, and mechanism of diversification of this extraordinary radiation are still debated. Geological evidence suggests that the lake dried out completely about 14,700 years ago. On the basis of phylogenetic analyses of almost 300 DNA sequences of the mitochondrial control region of East African cichlids, we find that the Lake Victoria cichlid flock is derived from the geologically older Lake Kivu. We suggest that the two seeding lineages may have already been lake-adapted when they colonized Lake Victoria. A haplotype analysis further shows that the most recent desiccation of Lake Victoria did not lead to a complete extinction of its endemic cichlid fauna and that the major lineage diversification took place about 100,000 years ago.