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Pearl Fish, Pearl-oyster Fish, Pearlfishes

Compiler and date details

17 May 2015 - Dianne J. Bray, Douglass F. Hoese, John R. Paxton & Jennifer E. Gates

Douglass F. Hoese, John R. Paxton, Jennifer E. Gates & Dianne J. Bray


Worldwide the Carapidae comprise two subfamilies, seven genera, about 31 described species and several undescribed species. Fifteen described species in six genera have been collected from Australian waters, with one additional genus and species from Cocos (Keeling) Islands and at least one undescribed species is known from Queensland. The names of some species are tentative, with specialists disagreeing on the appropriate name.

Members of four of the genera shelter in invertebrates, such as sea cucumbers. Some are parasitic, eating the internal organs of their host. The monotypic subfamily Pyramodontinae includes deepwater species found in the waters of the outer shelf and slope. Carapids have separate planktonic and benthic larval stages. Maximum size for the family is at least 36 cm.

The pearlfishes were reviewed by Arnold (1956). Subsequent descriptions of new species can be found in Cohen & Nielsen (1978) and Williams (1984a). Williams (1984b) treated relationships of four of the genera, and Markle & Olney (1990) discussed relationships. Life history information is provided by Trott (1970) and Robertson (1975). Relationships are discussed by Parmentier et al. (2000).

The pearlfishes are currently under study by D.F. Markle of OSUC and J. Olney of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, USA. We thank D.F. Markle for his help with this family account.


General References

Arnold, D.C. 1956. A systematic revision of the fishes of the teleost family Carapidae (Percomorphi, Blennioidea), with descriptions of two new species. Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) Historical Series 4(6): 245-307 figs 1-20

Cohen, D.M. & Nielsen, J.G. 1978. Guide to the identification of genera of the fish order Ophidiiformes with a tentative classification of the order. National Marine Fisheries Service (U.S.). Technical Report 417: 1-72 figs 1-103

Gordon, D.J., Markle, D.F. & Olney, J.E. 1984. Order Ophidiiformes. pp. 308-319 in Moser, H.G. et al. (eds). Ontogeny and Systematics of Fishes. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. Special Publication 1: 1-760

Hoese, D.F., Paxton, J.R., Gates, J.E. & Bray, D.J. 2006. Carapidae. pp. 551-555 in Hoese, D.F., Bray, D.J., Paxton, J.R. & Allen, G.R. Fishes. In, Beesley, P.L. & Wells, A. (eds) Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Vol. 35. Volume 35 Australia : ABRS & CSIRO Publishing Parts 1-3, 2178 pp. [551]

Markle, D.F. & Olney, J.E. 1990. Systematics of the pearlfishes (Pisces: Carapidae). Bulletin of Marine Science 47(2): 269-410

Olney, J.E., Leis, J.M. & Rennis, D.S. 2000. Carapidae (Pearlfishes). pp. 104-108 in Leis, J.M. & Carson-Ewart, B.M. The larvae of Indo-Pacific coastal fishes. An identification guide to marine fish larvae. Fauna Malesiana Handbooks Leiden : Brill Vol. 2 870 pp. [104]

Parmentier, E., Castillo, G., Chardon, M. & Vandewalle, P. 2000. Phylogenetic analysis of the pearlfish tribe Carapini (Pisces: Carapidae). Acta Zoologica (Stockholm) 81: 293-306

Robertson, D.A. 1975. Planktonic stages of the teleost family Carapidae in eastern New Zealand waters. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 9: 403-409 figs 1-2

Trott, L.B. 1970. Contributions to the biology of carapid fishes (Paracanthopterygii : Gadiformes). University of California Publications in Zoology 89: 1-41 figs 1-6 pls 1-16

Williams, J.T. 1984a. Synopsis and phylogenetic analysis of the pearlfish subfamily Carapinae (Pisces : Carapidae). Bulletin of Marine Science 34(3): 386-397 figs 1-3

Williams, J.T. 1984b. Studies of Echiodon (Pisces : Carapidae) with description of two new Indo-Pacific species. Copeia 1984(2): 410-422 figs 1-6


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
22-Jun-2015 OPHIDIIFORMES 08-Aug-2014 MODIFIED Dr Dianne Bray (NMV) Dr Doug Hoese (AM) Dr Matthew Lockett (AM)
12-Feb-2010 (import)