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Temporal range: Early Triassic–Recent
F de Castelnau-poissonsPl12.jpg
Plate from Francis de Laporte de Castelnau, Expédition... (1856):
Top to bottom:
Retroculus lapidifer (Perciformes: Cichlidae)
Hairy Blenny, Labrisomus nuchipinnis
(Perciformes: Labrisomidae)
Ogcocephalus notatus
(Lophiiformes: Ogcocephalidae)
Blue Tang, Acanthurus coeruleus
(Perciformes: Acanthuridae)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Superclass: Osteichthyes
Class: Actinopterygii
Subclass: Neopterygii
Infraclass: Teleostei


Teleostei is one of three infraclasses in class Actinopterygii, the ray-finned fishes. The name is derived from Greek (teleios, "complete" + osteon, "bone"). This diverse group, which arose in the Triassic period,[1] includes 26,840 extant species in about 40 orders and 448 families; most living fishes are members of this group.[3] The other two infraclasses, Holostei and Chondrostei, may be paraphyletic.[4]


Teleosts have a movable maxilla and premaxilla and corresponding modifications in the jaw musculature. These modifications make it possible for teleosts to protrude their jaws outwards from the mouth.[4][5] The caudal fin is homocercal, meaning the upper and lower lobes are about equal in size. The spine ends at the caudal peduncle, distinguishing this group from those in which the spine extends into the upper lobe of the caudal fin, such as most fish from the Paleozoic.[4] Teleosts also have chloride cells which pump excessive sodium and chloride ions out into the sea.[6]


Reproduction and parental care[edit]

Most teleost families use external fertilization rather than internal fertilization.[7] Of the oviparous teleosts, most (79%) do not provide parental care.[8] Viviparity, ovoviviparity, or some form of parental care for eggs is seen in a significant fraction (21%) of the 422 teleost families. Viviparity is relatively rare and is found in about 6% of teleost species, whereas it is found in around half of shark and ray species.[9]

Evolution of parental care[edit]

Teleosts exhibit all of the four potential care states (no care, male care, biparental care, and female care), with no care being by far the most frequent and female care being least frequent. No care is the most likely ancestral state and is still seen in most teleost families. Numerous species of teleost fishes have transitioned from no care toward uniparental care.[8] Viviparity or parental care of eggs is seen more often in teleost species that breed in freshwater or shallow coastal waters because in such environments, unattended eggs are more likely to die of predation and/or variable water conditions. Because there are also fewer optimal spawning sites in those environments, males territoriality and defense of such sites is evolutionarily favored. Biparental care of eggs or young is rare, even though sharing the costs of parental duties often improves survival of the offspring. It is typically unnecessary for fish parents to feed their young, compared to birds where feeding the young and biparental care are more common. The lighter workload in fish means it is unnecessary for both parents to give care.[9] It is likely that in the Cichlidae family, female only care developed from biparental care.[8]

Male parental care[edit]

Among teleosts that show parental care of eggs or young, male parental care is far more common than female parental care.[9] Teleosts that have evolved exclusive male care are characterized by male territoriality and low costs of care.[8] These conditions probably surfaced from the relatively limited spawning grounds, usually in freshwater or shallow coastal water, where it would benefit males to guard territories. That in turn would reduce the cost of guarding clutches of eggs (thus providing parental care), and would allow females to spawn repeatedly to produce multiple clutches. Male territoriality "preadapts" a species for evolving male parental care.[10][11] Examples of teleost species with male parental care include the mottled sculpin, the three-spined stickleback, and the pumpkinseed sunfish. There seems to be a correlation between teleost species that show male parental care and female fecundity that increases as body length increases.[7]


Some teleost species show no signs of mate selection beyond the correct sex and species, while some species display male preference for higher female fecundity, which is usually related to size. In many species, females select for better nest sites which are usually occupied by larger males. In species showing male parental care on dense spawning grounds, males on adjacent territories often fight among themselves, most likely for females.[7] Some species, like the desert pupfish, exhibit lek mating, wherein males aggregate along spawning territories and may display competitive behavior in order to entice visiting females that survey prospective mates.[12][13]

Systematics and evolution[edit]

The oldest teleost fossils date back to early Triassic, possibly evolving from fish related to the bowfin in the clade Holostei. During the Mesozoic and Cenozoic they diversified and as a result, 96% of all known fish species are teleosts. Teleosts are here divided into twelve Linnaean superorders, but this system is unlikely to be entirely correct in its cladistics and is in the process of being studied.

Silver arowana (Osteoglossum bicirrhosum) of the ancient Osteoglossiformes
Anguilla anguilla, the European Eel


Because most extant fish species are members of this group, teleostei are found world-wide and in most aquatic environments. About 60% live in marine environments and 40% live in freshwater.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b Palmer, Douglas (1999). The Marshall Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs & Prehistoric animals. London: Marshall Editions Developments Ltd. ISBN 3-8290-6747-X. 
  2. ^ "The Paleobiology Database." The Paleobiology Database. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 June 2013. <>.
  3. ^ Miller, Stephen, and John P. Harley. Zoology, Seventh Edition, pg 297. McGraw-Hill Higher Education. New York, 2007.
  4. ^ a b c Benton, Michael J. (1990). Vertebrate Paleontology. London: Chapman & Hall. ISBN 0-412-54010-X. 
  5. ^ Ben Waggoner (1995-07-17). "Telostei". Museum of Paleontology, University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved 2006-06-08. 
  6. ^ Michael Allaby. "Chloride cells". A Dictionary of Zoology. Retrieved 4 July 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c Pitcher, T (1993). The Behavior of Teleost Fishes. London: Chapman & Hall. 
  8. ^ a b c d Reynolds, John; Nicholas B. Goodwin; Robert P. Freckleton (19 March 2002). "Evolutionary Transitions in Parental Care and Live Bearing in Vertebrates". Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 357 (1419). doi:10.1098/rstb.2001.0930. PMC 1692951. PMID 11958696. 
  9. ^ a b c Clutton-Brock, T. H. (1991). The Evolution of Parental Care. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP. 
  10. ^ Werren, John; Mart R. Gross; Richard Shine (1980). "Paternity and the evolution of male parentage". Journal of Theoretical Biology 82 (4). doi:10.1016/0022-5193(80)90182-4. Retrieved 15 September 2013. 
  11. ^ Baylis, Jeffrey (1981). "The Evolution of Parental Care in Fishes, with reference to Darwin's rule of male sexual selection". Environmental Biology of Fishes 6 (2). doi:10.1007/BF00002788. Retrieved 16 September 2013. 
  12. ^ Fiske, P., Rintamaki, P. T. & Karvonen, E. Mating success in lekking males: a meta-analysis. Behavioral Ecology 9, 328–338 (1998).
  13. ^ Loiselle, Paul V. (December 1982). "Male Spawning-Partner Preference in an Arena-Breeding Teleost Cyprinodon macularius californiensis Girard (Atherinomorpha: Cyprinodontidae)". The American Naturalist 120 (6): 721–732. doi:10.1086/284026. 
  14. ^ In ITIS, Gobiesociformes is placed as the suborder Gobiesocoidei of the order Perciformes.
  15. ^ In ITIS, Syngnathiformes is placed as the suborder Syngnathoidei of the order Gasterosteiformes.