Fish classification

ByDr. Girish Chandra


(Dr. Girish Chandra)

Fishes have been classified in different ways from time to time. Earliest classification was proposed by J. Muller (1844) who proposed 7 subclasses in class Pisces.

Muller’s classification (1844)


            Subclasses:  DIPNOI (Lung fishes); TELEOSTEI  (Bony fishes);  GANOIDEI  (Polypterus, Amia, Lepidosteus); ELASMOBRANCHI  (Cartilagenous fishes); MARSIPOBRANCHI  (Cyclostomes); LEPTOCARDII  (Amphioxus).

Berg’s classification (1940)


            Class PLACODERMI  (Pterichthyes; Coccostei; Acanthodi)

            Class ELASMOBRANCHI  (Cartilagenous fishes)

            Class HOLOCEPHALI  (Chimaera)

            Class DIPNOI  (Lung fishes)

            Class TELEOSTOMI

 Subclass Crossopterygii (Latimeria)

 Subclass Actinopterygii (Bony fishes).

Romer’s classification (1959)


            Class PLACODERMI  (Pterichthyes; Coccostei; Acanthodi)

            Class CHONDRICHTHYES

                        Subclass Elasmobranchi  (Sharks, dogfishes, skates, rays)

                        Subclass Holocephali  (Chimaera)

            Class OSTEICHTHYES

                        Subclass Sarcopterygii

                                    Order CROSSOPTERYGII  (Latimeria)

                                    Order DIPNOI  (Lungfishes)

                        Subclass Actinopterygii  (All bony fishes)

Parker & Haswell’s classification (1967)


            Class PLACODERMI (6 Subclasses)

            Class CHONDRICHTHYS

                        Subclass Selachi (Sharks and Rays)

                        Subclass Bradyodonti (=Holocephali) (Chimaera)

            Class OSTEICHTHYS

                        Subclass Crossopterygii  (Latimeria)

                        Subclass Actinopterygii  (Rayfin bony fishes)

            Class DIPNOI (= CHOANICHTHYES) (Lung fishes)


COMBINED CLASSIFICATION (After Romer, 1959 and Parker & Haswell, 1967)


            Class PLACODERMI (6 Subclasses) Extinct.

            Class CHONDRICHTHYS

                        Subclass Elasmobranchi

Marine with placoid scales; pelvic fins modified as claspers; tail heterocercal; mouth ventral; cloaca present; spiracle present; operculum present.

                                    Superorder CLADOSELACHI (Extinct Sharks)

Paired fins biserial with a median axis; vertebra not differentiated; tail fin variable.

                                    Superorder SELACHI  (Modern cartilaginous fishes)

Paired fins finfold type; tail fin heterocercal; males with claspers; 5 pairs of gill slits; operculum absent; No air bladder; placoid scales present.

                                                Order Pleurotremata (Shaks and Dogfishes), 400 species.

Body cylindrical; gill slits laterally placed; pectoral fins small; eyes laterally placed.

                                                Order Hypotremata (Skates and Rays), 450 species.

Body dorsoventrally flattened; gill slits ventrally placed; pectoral fins large and fused on the lateral margins; bottom dwellers.

                        Subclass Holocephali (Chimaera), 30 species.

Four pairs of gills; notochord persists; teeth modified as crushing plates; mouth with lips; holostylic jaw suspension; tail whip-like; operculum present; spiracles absent but a single nostril present; skin naked with scattered placoid scales.

            Class OSTEICHTHYS

                        Subclass Crossopterygii  (Latimeria), 2 species.

Internal nares present; fins lobed except the first dorsal fin; scales with cosmine layer; air bladder lung-like; jaw suspension autostylic; notochord persists and vertebrae unossified;

                        Subclass Actinopterygii  (Rayfin bony fishes), 22,000 species.

Fins with fin rays; tail fin homocercal; scales cycloid and ctenoid; internal nares absent; air bladder present but no lungs; jaw suspension methystylic.

                                    Superorder CHONDROSTEI (35 species)

Skeleton partly cartilaginous; ganoid scales present; two internal nostrils present; air bladder two-lobed and ventral.

                                                Order Polypteriformes (Polypterus), 10 species.

                                                Order Acipenseriformes (Acipenser; Polyodon), 25 species

                                    Superorder HOLOSTEI (8 species)

Skeleton partly cartilaginous; teeth sharp; ganoid scales on body; air bladder lung-like; tail fin homocercal; vertebrae opisthocoelous.

                                                Order Amiiformes (Amia calva)

                                                Order Semiontiformes (Lepidosteus), 7 species.

                                    Superorder TELEOSTEI (20,000 species)

                                                Skeleton bony; tail homocercal; scales cycloid and ctenoid.

                                                Order Clupeiformes (Herrings; Salmons, Sardines)

                                                Order Scopeliformes (Bombay duck)

                                                Order Cypriniformes (=Ostariophysi) (Labeo, Catla,                                                              Mystus, Clarias, Wallago, Heteropneustes)

                                                Order Anguilliformes (Eels)

                                                Order Beloniformes (Flying fishes)

                                                Order Syngnathiformes (Sea horse and Pipe fish)

                                                Order Mastacembeliformes (Eel-like Mastacembelus)

                                                Order Ophiocephaliformes (Ophiocephalus)

                                                Order Symbranchiformes (Eel-like Amphipnous)

                                                Order Perciformes (Lates; Perca)

                                                Order Scorpaeniformes (Scorpion fish)

                                                Order Pleuronectiformes (Flat fishes)

                                                Order Echeneiformes (Sucker fish)

                                                Order Tetraodontiformes (Tetrodon; Diodon; Ostracion)

                                                Order Lophiiformes (Angler fishes)


Fishes: An Introduction to Ichthyology

By (author): Moyle, Josheph J

One of the most comprehensive and current general sources of information on fishes, this text covers a broad number of topics such as the structure and physiology, evolution, zoogeography, ecology, and conservation of fishes. Besides providing the basic background of fish biology, the text also provides insight on the conservation approach and up-to-date coverage convey the excitement being generated by recent research on fishes. Table Of Contents: Preface Part I:Introduction 1. Introduction Part II:Structure and Form 2. Form and Movement 3. Respiration 4. Blood and Its Circulation 5. Buoyancy and Thermal Regulation 6. Hydromineral Balance 7. Feeding, Nutrition, Digestion, and Excretion 8. Growth 9.Reproduction 10.Sensory Perception 11.Behavior and Communication Part III: The Fishes 12. Systematics, Genetics, and Speciation 13.Evolution 14.Hagfishes and Lampreys 15.Sharks, Rays, and Chimaeras 16.Relict Bony Fishes 17.Bonytongues, Eels, and Herrings 18.Minnows, Characins, and Catfishes 19.Smelt, Salmon, and Pike 20.Anglerfish, Barracudinas, Cods, and Dragonfishes 21.Mullets, Silversides, Flying Fish, and Killifish 22.Opahs, Squirrelfish, Dories, Pipefish, and Sculpins 23.Perciformes: Snooks to Snakeheads 24.Flounders, Puffers, and Molas Part IV:Zoogeography 25.Zoogeography of Freshwater Fishes 26.Zoogeography of Marine Fishes Part V:Ecology 27.Introduction to Ecology 28.Temperate Streams 29.Temperate Lakes and Reservoirs 30.Tropical Freshwater Lakes and Streams 31.Estuaries 32.Coastal Habitats 33.Tropical Reefs 34.Epipelagic Zone 35.Deep Sea Habitats 36.Polar Regions 37.Conservation Bibliography Index
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