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Lake whitefish1.jpg
Lake whitefish, Coregonus clupeaformis
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Salmoniformes
Family: Salmonidae
Subfamily: Coregoninae
Genus: Coregonus
Linnaeus, 1758
Type species
Coregonus lavaretus
Linnaeus, 1758

Nearly 70 extant members

Coregonus is a diverse genus of fish in the salmon family (Salmonidae). The Coregonus species are known as whitefishes. The genus contains at least 68 described extant taxa, but the true number of species is a matter of debate. The type species of the genus is Coregonus lavaretus.

Most Coregonus species inhabit lakes and rivers, and several species, including the Arctic cisco (C. autumnalis), the Bering cisco (C. laurettae), and the least cisco (C. sardinella) are anadromous, moving between salt water and fresh water.

The genus was previously subdivided into two subgenera Coregonus ("true whitefishes") and Leucichthys ("ciscoes"), Coregonus comprising taxa with sub-terminal mouth and usually a benthic feeding habit, Leucichthys those with terminal or supra-terminal mouth and usually a pelagic plankton-feeding habit. This classification is not natural however: based on molecular data, ciscoes comprise two distinct lineages within the genus. Moreover, the genus Stenodus is not phylogenetically distinct from Coregonus.[1]

Many whitefish species or ecotypes, especially from the Great Lakes and the Alpine lakes of Europe, have gone extinct over the past century or are endangered. All Coregonus species are protected under appendix III of the Bern Convention.

Species diversity[edit]

There is much uncertainty and confusion in the classification of the many of species of this genus. Particularly, one extreme view of diversity recognises just two main species in Northern and Central Europe, the common whitefish C. lavaretus and the vendace C. albula, whereas others would divide these into numerous, often narrowly distributed species. In North America, the ciscoes of the Coregonus artedi complex in the Great Lakes area comprise several, often co-occurring forms or ecotypes, whose taxonomic status remains controversial.

In 2012, FishBase listed 78 extant and recently extinct species in this genus (extinct species are marked with a dagger, "†"):[2]

Cisco or lake herring, Coregonus artedi
Bloater, Coregonus hoyi
Common whitefish, Coregonus lavaretus (sensu lato)


  1. ^ Bernatchez L, Colombani F, Dodson JJ (1991) Phylogenetic relationships among the subfamily Coregoninae as revealed by mitochondrial DNA restriction analysis Journal of Fish Biology 39 (Suppl A):283-290.
  2. ^ Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2012). Species of Coregonus in FishBase. February 2012 version.

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Coregonus at Wikimedia Commons
  • Data related to Coregonus at Wikispecies