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Male sailfin molly (P. latipinna)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Cyprinodontiformes
Family: Poeciliidae
Subfamily: Poeciliinae
Tribe: Poeciliini
Genus: Poecilia
Bloch & J. G. Schneider, 1801
Type species
Poecilia vivipara
Bloch & J. G. Schneider, 1801

See text.

  • Acanthophacelus Eigenmann, 1907
  • Allopoecilia Hubbs, 1924
  • Lebistes De Filippi, 1861
  • Lembesseia Fowler, 1949
  • Mollienesia Lesueur, 1821
  • Neopoecilia Hubbs, 1924
  • Pamphoria Regan, 1913
  • Parapoecilia Hubbs, 1924

Poecilia is a genus of fishes in the family Poeciliidae of the order Cyprinodontiformes.[2] These livebearers are native to fresh, brackish and salt water in the Americas, and some species in the genus are euryhaline. A few have adapted to living in waters that contain high levels of toxic hydrogen sulfide (H
)[3] and a population of P. mexicana lives in caves (other populations of this species are surface-living).[4]

Some common and widespread species are often kept as aquarium fish, while other have very small ranges and are seriously threatened.[3] All species in Poecilia are called mollies except for the Endler's livebearer (P. wingei) and the well-known guppy (P. reticulata) which have a distinctly different body shape from the rest of the genus.

Micropoecilia has been proposed to be included as a subgenus of Poecilia.[5]

Taxonomy and etymology[edit]

Poecilia was first proposed as a genus in 1801 by the German naturalists Marcus Elieser Bloch and Johann Gottlob Theaenus Schneider when the described Poecilia vivipara as a new species. P. vivipara was subsequently designated as the type species of the genus by Pieter Bleeker in 1864.[6] It is the type genus of the subfamily Poeciliinae and of the family Poeciliidae.[7] Poecilia refers to the Greek word poikilos, which means "variegated" or "speckled", an allusion to the coloration and pattern of the type species, as well as that of and other related fishes, such as Fundulus heteroclitus which Bloch & Schneider classified in this genus.[8]


Fish of this genus have extremely variable coloration and have been selectively bred to create many different varieties. The most commonly kept species are guppies (P. reticulata), mollies (P. sphenops or P. latipinna), and Endler's livebearers (P. wingei). Members of the genus readily hybridize with each other and so most commercially offered fish are hybrids (with guppies having some Endler, and mollies being a mix of common and sailfin mollies).[9]

They are easy to sex as males have a prominent gonopodium, a modified anal fin used to inseminate females. They mature quickly and breed readily, with females giving birth to a dozen or more fry every month.[10] Some poecilids are cannibalistic and will eat any of their fry that are unable to flee in time (with females often eating the fry they just gave birth to, especially in a cramped aquarium setting).


The 40 currently recognized species in this genus are:[11][12]

If Poecilia in the wider sense is used then the species would be divided up into subgenera as follows:[8]

  • Poecilia Bloch & Schneider 1801
    • Poecilia (Poecilia) vivipara
  • Acanthophacelus Eigenmann 1907
    • Poecilia (Acanthophacelus) kempkesi
    • Poecilia (Acanthophacelus) obscura
    • Poecilia (Acanthophacelus) reticulata
    • Poecilia (Acanthophacelus) wingei
  • Allopoecilia Hubbs 1924
    • Poecilia (Allopoecilia) caucana
    • Poecilia (Allopoecilia) dauli
  • Curtipenis Rivas & Myers 1950
    • Poecilia (Curtipenis) elegans
  • Limia Poey 1854
    • Poecilia (Limia) caudofasciata
    • Poecilia (Limia) caymanensi
    • Poecilia (Limia) dominicensis
    • Poecilia (Limia) fuscomaculata
    • Poecilia (Limia) garnieri
    • Poecilia (Limia) grossidens
    • Poecilia (Limia) immaculata
    • Poecilia (Limia) melanogaster
    • Poecilia (Limia) melanonotata
    • Poecilia (Limia) miragoanensis
    • Poecilia (Limia) nicholsi
    • Poecilia (Limia) nigrofasciata
    • Poecilia (Limia) ornata
    • Poecilia (Limia) pauciradiata
    • Poecilia (Limia) perugiae
    • Poecilia (Limia) rivasi
    • Poecilia (Limia) sulphurophila
    • Poecilia (Limia) tridens
    • Poecilia (Limia) versicolor
    • Poecilia (Limia) vittata
    • Poecilia (Limia) yaguajali
    • Poecilia (Limia) zonata
  • Micropoecilia Hubbs 1926
    • Poecilia (Micropoecilia) bifurca
    • Poecilia (Micropoecilia) branneri
    • Poecilia (Micropoecilia) minima
    • Poecilia (Micropoecilia) parae
    • Poecilia (Micropoecilia) picta
    • Poecilia (Micropoecilia) sarrafae
    • Poecilia (Micropoecilia) waiapi
  • Mollienesia Lesueur 1821
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) boesemani
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) butleri
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) catemaconis
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) chica
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) formosa
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) gillii
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) hondurensis
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) koperi
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) kykesis
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) latipinna
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) latipunctata
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) limantouri
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) marcellinoi
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) maylandi
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) mechthildae
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) mexicana
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) nelsoni
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) orri
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) petenensis
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) rositae
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) salvatoris
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) sphenops
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) sulphuraria
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) teresae
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) thermalis
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) vandepolli
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) velifera
    • Poecilia (Mollienesia) wandae
  • Pseudolimia Poeser 2002
    • Poecilia (Pseudolimia) heterandria
  • Psychropoecilia Myers 1935
    • Poecilia (Psychropoecilia) hispaniolana
    • Poecilia (Psychropoecilia) montana



  1. ^ Bailly, Nicolas (2014). "Poecilia Bloch & Schneider, 1801". WoRMS. World Register of Marine Species. Retrieved 19 July 2023.
  2. ^ "Poecilia". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved June 8, 2006.
  3. ^ a b Palacios, Arias-Rodriguez, Plath, Eifert, Lerp, Lamboj, Voelker, & Tobler (2013). The Rediscovery of a Long Described Species Reveals Additional Complexity in Speciation Patterns of Poeciliid Fishes in Sulfide Springs. PLoS ONE 8(8): e71069.
  4. ^ Plath; Heubel; García de León; & Schlupp (2005). Cave molly females (Poecilia mexicana, Poeciliidae, Teleostei) like well-fed males. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 58: 144–151.
  5. ^ Bragança, P. H. N. and W. J. E. M. Costa (2011): Poecilia sarrafae, a new poeciliid from the Paraíba and Mearim river basins, northeastern Brazil (Cyprinodontiformes: Cyprinodontoidei). Ichthyological Exploration of Freshwaters v. 21 (no. 4) [Dec. 2010]: 369–376.
  6. ^ Eschmeyer, William N.; Fricke, Ron & van der Laan, Richard (eds.). "Genera in the family Poeciliinae". Catalog of Fishes. California Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 25 May 2023.
  7. ^ J. S. Nelson; T. C. Grande; M. V. H. Wilson (2016). Fishes of the World (5th ed.). Wiley. p. 379. ISBN 978-1-118-34233-6.
  8. ^ a b Christopher Scharpf; Kenneth J. Lazara (9 March 2023). "Order CYPRINODONTIFORMES: Families POECILIIDAE, ANABLEPIDAE, VALENCIIDAE, APHANIIDAE and PROCATOPODIDAE". The ETYFish Project Fish Name Etymology Database. Christopher Scharpf and Kenneth J. Lazara. Retrieved 25 May 2023.
  9. ^ "Molly's the word!". Practical Fishkeeping UK. 13 June 2016. Retrieved 11 December 2021.
  10. ^ "Reproductive biology of Poecilia sphenops Valenciennes, 1846 (Cyprinidontiformes: Poeciliidae) at the Emiliano Zapata Reservoir in Morelos, Mexico". Neotropical Ichthyology. 14. 2016 – via SciELO Brazil.
  11. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2013). Species of Poecilia in FishBase. February 2013 version.
  12. ^ a b Poeser, F.N. (2013): Apropos Guppys... viviparos, Das Lebendgebärenden Magazin, (11) 1: 36-40, 56. (In German)
  13. ^ Lyons, T.J. & Rodríguez-Silva, R. 2021. Poecilia hispaniolana. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2021: e.T125979833A125986583. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2021-1.RLTS.T125979833A125986583.en. Downloaded on 28 April 2021.
  14. ^ Manfred K. Meyer; Alfred C. Radda; Manfred Schartl; Klaus Schneider; Brigitta Wilde (November 2004). "A new species of Poecilia, subgenus Mollienesia, from upper río Cahabón system, Guatemala, with remarks on the Nomenclature of Mollienesia petenensis Günther, 1866 (Teleostei: Cyprinodontiformes: Poeciliidae)" (PDF). Zoologische Abhandlungen. 54: 145–154. ISSN 0375-5231. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-08-29.
  15. ^ Fred N. Poeser; Michael Kempkes; Isaac J. H. Isbrücker (2005). "Description of Poecilia (Acanthophacelus) wingei n. sp. from the Paria Peninsula, Venezuela, including notes on Acanthophacelus Eigenmann, 1907 and other subgenera of Poecilia Bloch and Schneider, 1801 (Teleostei, Cyprinodontiformes, Poecilidae)" (PDF). Contributions to Zoology. 74 (1–2): 97–115. doi:10.1163/18759866-0740102007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-10-20.

External links[edit]