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Temporal range: Miocene - present
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Characiformes
Family: Cynodontidae
C. H. Eigenmann, 1907

Subfamily Cynodontinae
Subfamily Roestinae

Cynodontidae, also known as dogtooth characins or vampire tetras, are a family of predatory, characiform freshwater fishes from South America. This group is not very diverse, and includes only five genera and 14 species. Most of what is known about this family is from the members of the subfamily Cynodontinae, which includes the largest species of this family, up to 117 cm (3.84 ft).[1] The members of subfamily Roestinae are less known, though they only reach up to 20 cm (7.9 in).[2]

Physical characteristics[edit]

Cynodontidae are elongated in shape with a silvery or grey colour and an upturned mouth. Some species have a hunchbacked appearance. The family names (both scientific and common) derive from the long and well-developed canines which are used to spear their prey, mainly other fish. Their pectoral fins are also expanded. The maximum length reached is 117 cm (46 in).[1]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

These fish live in midlevel to surface waters of rivers, lakes, and flooded forests. Most species of this family originate from the Orinoco and Amazon basins, as well as rivers of the Guianas.[2] One species, Rhaphiodon vulpinus, ranges as far south as the Paraná-Paraguay and Uruguay basins, and Gilbertolus is found in the Atrato, Magdalena and Maracaibo basins.[2] Fossil species are also known from Argentina.[2]

Relationship to humans[edit]

Hydrolycus species are game fish, having been recently added to the International Game Fish Association in the fly and rod class. Cynodontid fish are also sometimes kept in aquaria.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2013). "Hydrolycus scomberoides" in FishBase. March 2013 version.
  2. ^ a b c d e Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2007). "Cynodontidae" in FishBase. May 2007 version.