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Livebearers, Livebearing Toothcarps

Compiler and date details

15 August 2014 - Douglass F. Hoese, Jennifer E. Gates & Matthew M. Lockett

20 December 2006 - Douglass F. Hoese & Jennifer E. Gates


Poeciliids are live-bearing fishes native to North, Central and South America and Africa. Most species are found in fresh water, but some are tolerant of brackish water. About 37 genera and 304 species are recognised worldwide (Nelson 2006), with at least six species in four genera established in Australia. Maximum length for the family is about 10 cm.

The poeciliids were reviewed by Rosen & Bailey (1963). Relationships were discussed by Parenti (1981). Merrick & Schmida (1984) discussed the biology of several species recorded from Australia. Corfield et al. (2008) and Harris (2013) reviewed species introductions in Australia.

Many species, such as molly, swordtail, platy and guppy, are popular in the aquarium trade. In recent years, species kept in aquaria have been released into the wild, often with adverse effects on native fishes (Arthington et al. 1983; McKay 1984). The first species to be released into the wilds of Australia was Gambusia holbrooki, which was brought to Sydney in 1926 and Brisbane in 1929 for mosquito control. The stocks were apparently brought from Italy, having originated from Georgia, USA (Lloyd & Tomasov 1985). Subsequently, during World War II G. holbrooki spread to many areas (Whitley 1951). Previously two subspecies of Gambusia affinis (G. affinis affinis and G. affinis holbrooki) were recorded from Australia. Wooten et al. (1988) treated the two forms as distinct species and examination of museum specimens indicated that G. holbrooki is common in Australia, but the occurrence of G. affinis is unclear. Lloyd & Tomasov (1985) believed that all Australian records of Gambusia were based on Gambusia holbrooki. Another species, Gambusia dominicensis, has also been recorded from Australia, collected from waterholes near Alice Springs (Allen et al. 2002 and Grant 2002), but some uncertainty surrounds the identity of these populations (Lloyd & Tomasov 1985).


General References

Allen, G.R., Midgley, S.H. & Allen, M. 2002. Field Guide to the Freshwater Fishes of Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 394 pp.

Arthington, A.H., Milton, D.A. & McKay, R.J. 1983. Effects of urban development and habitat alterations on the distribution and abundance of native and exotic freshwater fish in the Brisbane region, Queensland. Australian Journal of Ecology 8(2): 87-101

Corfield, J., Diggles, B., Jubb, C., McDowall, R.M., Moore, A., Richards, A. & Rowe, D.K. 2008. Review of the impacts of introduced ornamental fish species that have established wild populations in Australia. Prepared for the Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. 277 pp.

Girard, S.F. 1859. Ichthyology of the Boundary. United States and Mexican Boundary Survey, under the Order of Lieut. Col. W. H. Emory, Major First Cavalry, and United States Commissioner. Vol. 2, part 2. pp. 1-85 [pl. 35]

Grant, E.M. 2002. Guide to Fishes. Redcliffe : EM Grant Pty Ltd 880 pp.

Harris, J.H. 2013. 11. Fishes from elsewhere. pp. 259-282 in Humphries, P. & Walker, K. (eds). Ecology of Australian Freshwater Fishes. Collingwood, Victoria : CSIRO Publishing 423 pp.

Lloyd, L.N. & Tomasov, J.F. 1985. Taxonomic status of the mosquito fish, Gambusia affinis (Poeciliidae), in Australia. Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 36: 447-451 fig. 1

McKay, R.J. 1984. Introductions of exotic fishes in Australia. pp. 177-199 in Courtnay, W.R. Jr & Staffer, J.R. Jr (eds). Distribution, Biology and Management of Exotic Fishes. Baltimore : John Hopkins University Press.

Merrick, J.R. & Schmida, G.E. 1984. Australian Freshwater Fishes Biology and Management. Sydney : J.R. Merrick 409 pp. figs 280 col. figs.

Nelson, J.S. 2006. Fishes of the World. Hoboken, New Jersey : John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 601 pp.

Parenti, L.R. 1981. A phylogenetic and biogeographic analysis of cyprinodontiform fishes (Teleostei, Atherinomorpha). Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 168(4): 335-557

Rosen, D.E. & Bailey, R.M. 1963. The poeciliid fishes (Cyprinodontiformes), their structure, zoogeography and systematics. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 126(1): 1-176 figs 1-61

Whitley, G.P. 1951. Introduced fishes. II. Australian Museum Magazine 10(7): 234-238 3 figs

Wooten, M.C., Scribner, K.T. & Smith, M.H. 1988. Genetic variability and systematics of Gambusia in the southeastern United States. Copeia 1988(2): 283-289 figs 1-2


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)
04-Sep-2014 CYPRINODONTIFORMES 18-Aug-2014 MODIFIED Dr Doug Hoese
12-Feb-2010 (import)