List of marine fishes of South Africa

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Map of the Southern African coastline showing some of the landmarks referred to in species range statements

This is a list of fishes recorded from the oceans bordering South Africa. This list comprises locally used common names, scientific names with author citation and recorded ranges. Ranges specified may not be the entire known range for the species, but should include the known range within the waters surrounding the Republic of South Africa.

List ordering and taxonomy complies where possible with the current usage in Wikispecies, and may differ from the cited source, as listed citations are primarily for range or existence of records for the region. Sub-taxa within any given taxon are arranged alphabetically as a general rule. Details of each species may be available through the relevant internal links. Synonyms may be listed where useful.

Fish are gill-bearing aquatic craniate animals that lack limbs with digits. They form a sister group to the tunicates, together forming the olfactores. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish as well as various extinct related groups. Tetrapods emerged within lobe-finned fishes, so cladistically they are fish as well. However, traditionally fish are rendered paraphyletic by excluding the tetrapods (i.e., the amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals which all descended from within the same ancestry). Because in this manner the term "fish" is defined negatively as a paraphyletic group, it is not considered a formal taxonomic grouping in systematic biology, unless it is used in the cladistic sense, including tetrapods. The traditional term pisces (also ichthyes) is considered a typological, but not a phylogenetic classification.

The earliest organisms that can be classified as fish were soft-bodied chordates that first appeared during the Cambrian period. Although they lacked a true spine, they possessed notochords which allowed them to be more agile than their invertebrate counterparts. Fish would continue to evolve through the Paleozoic era, diversifying into a wide variety of forms. Many fish of the Paleozoic developed external armor that protected them from predators. The first fish with jaws appeared in the Silurian period, after which many (such as sharks) became formidable marine predators rather than just the prey of arthropods.

Most fish are ectothermic ("cold-blooded"), allowing their body temperatures to vary as ambient temperatures change, though some of the large active swimmers like white shark and tuna can hold a higher core temperature.

Superclass Agnatha — Jawless fishes (Cyclostomes)[edit]

Class Myxini[edit]

Order Myxiniformes — Hagfishes[edit]

Family: Myxinidae

Superclass Gnathostomata — Jawed fishes[edit]

Class Chondrichthyes — Cartilaginous fishes[edit]

Subclass Elasmobranchii — Sharks and Rays[edit]

Superorder Rajomorphii — Rays (including skates, guitarfish and sawfish)[edit]
Order Myliobatiformes — Stingrays[edit]

Superfamily: Myliobatoidea
Family: Gymnuridae

  • Japanese butterflyray Gymnura japonica (Temminck and Schlegel, 1850) (Agulhas bank)[1] (Identification provisional)
  • Backwater butterflyray Gymnura natalensis (Gilchrist and Thompson, 1911) (Mossel Bay to southern Mozambique)[1]

Family: Myliobatidae — Eagle rays

Family: Hexatrygonidae — Sixgill stingrays

Order Pristiformes — Sawfishes[edit]

Family: Pristidae — Sawfishes

Order Rajiformes — Rays, skates and guitarfish[edit]

Superfamily: Dasyatoidea

Family: Dasyatidae — Stingrays

Superfamily: Rajoidea — Skates

Family: Rajidae — Skates

Superfamily: Rhinobatoidea — Guitarfish (Sandsharks)

Family: Rhinobatidae — Guitarfish

Order Torpediniformes — Electric rays[edit]

Family: Narkidae

  • Ornate torpedo ray Electrolux addisoni Compagno & Heemstra, 2007 (Coffee Bay, Eastern Cape Province, to just north of Durban, kwaZulu-Natal)[7]
  • Natal electric ray Heteronarce garmani Regan, 1921 (Algoa Bay to KwaZulu-Natal)[1]
  • Onefin electric ray or Torpedo ray Narke capensis (Gmelin, 1789) (Atlantic coast of Cape Peninsula to Madagascar)[1][3][5]

Family: Torpedinidae

Superorder Selachimorpha — Sharks[edit]
Order Carcharhiniformes — Ground sharks[edit]

Family: Carcharhinidae — Requiem sharks

Family: Hemigaleidae

Family: Proscylliidae

Family: Scyliorhinidae — Catsharks

Family: Sphyrnidae — Hammerhead sharks

  • Scalloped hammerhead shark Sphyrna lewini (Griffith & Smith, 1834) (East London to Mozambique)[2][4]
  • Great hammerhead Sphyrna mokarran (Rüppell, 1837) (Natal to tropical Indo-Pacific)[1][2]
  • Smooth hammerheadSphyrna zygaena (Linnaeus, 1758) (South Cape to southern Mozambique, occasionally on west coast. Warm temperate waters of both hemispheres)[1][2]

Family: Triakidae — Houndsharks

Order Hexanchiformes — Cow and frill sharks[edit]

Family: Hexanchidae — Cow sharks

Order Lamniformes — Mackerel sharks[edit]

Family: Alopiidae — Thresher sharks

Family: Cetorhinidae — Basking sharks

  • Basking shark Cetorhinus maximus (Gunnerus, 1765) (Temperate waters of all oceans, a few records from south-western Cape)[1]

Family: Lamnidae — Mackerel sharks

Family: Mitsukurinidae — Goblin sharks

Family: Odontaspididae

Family: Pseudocarchariidae — Crocodile sharks

Order Orectolobiformes — Carpet sharks[edit]

Family: Ginglymostomatidae

Family: Rhincodontidae — Whale sharks

Family: Stegostomatidae

Order Pristiophoriformes — Sawsharks[edit]

Family: Pristiophoridae

Order Squaliformes — Dogfish sharks[edit]

Family: Echinorhinidae — Bramble sharks

Family: Squalidae — Dogfishes

Order Squatiniformes — Angelsharks[edit]

Family: Squatinidae

Subclass Holocephali — Chimaeras[edit]

Order Chimaeriformes[edit]

Family: Callorhinchidae — Elephantfish

Family: Chimaeridae — Chimaeras

Family: Rhinochimaeridae — Longnose chimaeras

Superclass Osteichthyes — Bony fishes[edit]

See article List of marine bony fishes of South Africa


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap aq ar as at au av aw ax ay az ba bb bc bd be bf bg bh bi bj bk bl bm bn bo bp bq br bs bt bu bv bw bx by bz ca cb cc cd ce cf cg ch ci cj ck cl cm cn co cp cq cr cs ct cu cv cw cx cy cz da db dc dd de df dg dh di dj dk dl dm dn do dp dq dr ds dt du dv dw dx dy dz ea eb ec ed ee ef eg eh ei ej ek el em en eo ep eq er es et eu ev ew ex ey ez fa fb fc fd fe ff Ed. Smith, Margaret M, and Heemstra, P. Smith's sea fishes. South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, Grahamstown. Struik publishers, Cape Town, 2003. ISBN 1-86872-890-0
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa Branch, G.M. Griffiths, C.L. Branch, M.L. Beckley, L.E. Two Oceans: A guide to the marine life of southern Africa. 5th impression, David Philip, Cape Town, 2000. ISBN 0-86486-250-4
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Jones, Georgina. A field guide to the marine animals of the Cape Peninsula. SURG, Cape Town, 2008. ISBN 978-0-620-41639-9
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n King, Dennis., and Fraser, Valda. More reef fishes and nudibranchs. Struik, Cape Town, 2001. ISBN 1-86872-686-X
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Zsilavecz, Guido, Coastal fishes of the Cape Peninsula and False Bay: A divers' identification guide. SURG, Cape Town, 2005. ISBN 0-620-34230-7
  6. ^ a b c d e f g King, Dennis. Reef fishes and corals: East coast of southern Africa. Struik, Cape Town, 1996. ISBN 1-86825-981-1
  7. ^ Compagno, Leonard; Phillip Heemstra (May 2007). "Electrolux addisoni, a new genus and species of electric ray from the east coast of South Africa (Rajiformes: Torpedinoidei: Narkidae), with a review of torpedinoid taxonomy". Smithiana, Publications in Aquatic Biodiversity. The South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity. 7: 15–49. ISSN 1684-4130. Retrieved 8 June 2009.