Real bony fish

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Real bony fish
Banggai cardinalfish (Pterapogon kauderni)

Banggai cardinalfish ( Pterapogon kauderni )

Trunk : Chordates (chordata)
Sub-stem : Vertebrates (vertebrata)
Superclass : Jaw mouths (Gnathostomata)
Class : Ray fins (Actinopterygii)
Subclass : Neuflosser (Neopterygii)
Subclass : Real bony fish
Scientific name
Müller , 1846

The real bony fish (Teleostei) are a subclass of the ray fins (Actinopterygii). They are also referred to as bony fish in the narrower sense in order to clearly distinguish them from the bony fish in the broader sense (Osteichthyes). The scientific name "Teleostei" ( Gr . Telos - "completion"; osteon - "bone") refers to the completely ossified skeleton in many species. The recent Teleostei are also summarized under the taxon Teleocephala and thus differentiated from the fossil forms.

The real bony fish include around 30,000 known recent species, over 96 percent of all living fish species and thus around half of all vertebrate species described .


Real bony fish have an abundance of shapes that is unique among vertebrates. In addition to the typical fish shape of various forms, there are flat fish , extremely long and narrow ribbon fish , snake-like moray eels and gill slit eels , which even largely lack fins, and disc-shaped discus and bat fish .

The real bony fish include several of the smallest vertebrate species in the world, such as the carp fish Paedocypris progenetica and the goby-like Schindleria brevipinguis . Both species don't even reach a length of one centimeter. The strapfish Regalecus glesne , on the other hand, is up to eight meters long and is only surpassed by some cartilaginous fish , for example the whale shark . The sunfish reach a weight of 2.3 t and are therefore the heaviest bony fish species.


Skull of a perch

The skull of the real bony fish consists of numerous individual bones. Original teleostei usually have more than advanced teleostei. In the case of the original bones, a clear distinction can be made between exocranial, more externally located, and endocranial, more internally located bones. In the course of evolution, more and more endocranial bones migrated to the surface of the skull. Small bones of the skull surface were often lost in the advanced Teleostei or new bones were formed in certain taxa, such as tetra , carp and pike . Canals of the lateral line organ run in the bones of the skull surface .

The skull bones of the real bony fish are often difficult to homologate with those of other vertebrates because of their strong anatomical changes , or other taxa use different names.

In the original Teleostei vomer , Parasphenoid, Extopterygoid, Endopterygoid, Dermoplatinum, maxillary and premaxillary bones in the upper jaw , in the lower jaw only the dental ones . In the course of evolution, the number of tooth-bearing bones was reduced. In the acanthomorpha, which often have strongly protruding mouths, even the maxillary is toothless and only serves as a lever to extend the tooth-bearing premaxillary.

In the original real bony fish, the Branchiostegal rays are also dentate. In higher taxa these teeth have become tooth plates in the throat (pharyngeal jaw), such as in the carp-like, garfish , wrasse and sea ​​bream . This made it possible for these fish to eat very hard-shelled food.

The skull of original real bony fish is connected to the spine via the basioccipital. In the Neoteleostei there are two additional articular surfaces over the exoccipitalia.

Postcranial skeleton

The spine of the real bony fish can range from 18 ( box fish ) to more than 750 vertebrae ( snipe eels of the genus Nemichthys ).


The upper skin ( epidermis ) of the Teleostei still consists of two layers in the larvae, in adult fish from many layers of living cells. Depending on the fish's way of life, the epidermis varies in thickness: 20 to 50 μm in fish that live in open water, 300 to 450 μm in bottom-dwelling fish. The whole fish is covered by a mucous membrane, which is secreted by numerous mucous cells in the epidermis and distributed in the epidermis by micro-ridges. There is no cornea like that of land vertebrates. Cornifications are available as special adaptations, e.g. B. in the mouth area of armor catfish to scrape off algae from rocks, or as pearlescent rash at spawning time in carp fish .


Most real bony fish are scaled. The scales are remnants of the extensive skin armor of the original vertebrates. All teleostei have elasmoid scales, which are cell-free plate-shaped bones. Since they grow concentrically, they can be used like tree rings to determine their age. There are two types of scale, the more original round scale (cycloid scale) which is circular and smooth-edged, and the comb scale (ctenoid scale), which is provided with thorns and other appendages on the rear edge. Round scales occur in all Teleostei groups, in some such as the wrasse they are secondary to simplified comb scales.

The bone shields of armored and armored catfish , pipefish and boxfish are not homologous with scales .


A clear definition of bony fish i. e. S. is particularly difficult at its roots. Wiley and Johnson (2010) give the following synapomorphies for the teleostei.

  1. Quadratum caudoventral with “quadratojugal” process (connective tissue bone).
  2. Maxillary rotatable (narrowing of the corner of the mouth).
  3. Coronoidea are absent in the lower jaw.
  4. Articulare with Angulare (or retroarticulare) fused.
  5. Neural spine of prealar 1 short or largely reduced (see caudal fin ).
  6. Pectoral propterygium fused with the foremost radius.
  7. Dorsal base processes of the innermost dorsal caudal fin rays present.
  8. Uroneuralia only from the Ural vertebrae.
  9. Posterior myodoma (canal for the straight eye muscles ) reaching into the basioccipital.
  10. Frontal rear always wider than front (except in Osteoglossomorpha and several Ostariophysi ).
  11. Vomer unpaired.

Each of these features is sufficient to identify a Teleoste with a high degree of probability. Of course, however, z. B. a small-eyed fish have no myodomas, a tail-finless fish have no uroneuralia (etc.).

Habitats and species distribution

The real bony fish originally evolved in freshwater ecosystems. Some groups have migrated into the sea, and some of them have become freshwater inhabitants again. Today, the species are distributed in the various habitats as follows:


Real bony fish are predominantly separated from the sexes. However, many marine species have various forms of hermaphroditism . Some marine perch relatives, such as the red bream, are proterogynous hermaphrodites that mature as females and later transform into males. With others, like the sea ​​bream , it is the other way round: they are first male, then female (proterandry); in the anemonefish , this conversion to the female occurs only when required. Hermaphrodites also occur in many deep-sea fish, e.g. B. in many lizard fish relatives (Aulopiformes).

Although true bony fish are generally oviparous (egg-laying), there are also viviparous (live-bearing) groups, e.g. B. the livebearers known from the aquarium hobby . These fish often have special mating organs for internal fertilization such as the gonopodium or the andropodium . Usually it is an anal fin that has been transformed into a mating organ.

Different forms of brood care occur in a total of around 90 families . Usually only the eggs are looked after, but in some families of freshwater fish also larvae and young fish are looked after. The latter intensive type of brood care has so far only been found in two species in the sea, the white-striped eel goby and the swallowtail damselfish .

Paleontology and evolution

The oldest representatives of the real bony fish can be found in the Triassic around 220 million years ago. They emerged from forerunners that were similar to today's freshwater pike species (Amiiformes) and are regarded as their sister group. Unlike their relatives, the real bony fish are unable to produce ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in the body due to a mutation in the gulo gene .

In terms of their quantitative importance, the real bony fish initially lagged behind the originally predominant bony organoids. During the Middle Cretaceous there was an explosive evolutionary spurt in which, among other things, the Protacanthopterygii emerged. A second phase of rapid evolutionary splitting in the Upper Cretaceous and the Lower Tertiary led to the emergence of the perch relatives (Percomorphaceae). Today they occupy the predominant position among the fish.

Only 57% of all real bony fish families living today are fossilized. In the fossil deposit Monte Bolca near Verona , Italy, from the Eocene , a large number of fossils of higher taxa of the real bony fish were found.


The real bony fish were the first high vertebrate taxon to be given an approximately phylogenetic system. Here the systematics according to R. Betancur-R. et al. (2017) and the orders that are known only from fossils are supplemented according to Nelson et al. (2017).

Sub-class real bony fish (Teleostei)



  • Ricardo Betancur-R., Richard E. Broughton, Edward O. Wiley, Kent Carpenter, J. Andrés López, Chenhong Li, Nancy I. Holcroft, Dahiana Arcila, Millicent Sanciangco, James C Cureton II, Feifei Zhang, Thaddaeus Buser, Matthew A. Campbell, Jesus A Ballesteros, Adela Roa-Varon, Stuart Willis, W. Calvin Borden, Thaine Rowley, Paulette C. Reneau, Daniel J. Hough, Guoqing Lu, Terry Grande, Gloria Arratia, Guillermo Ortí: The Tree of Life and a New Classification of Bony Fishes. PLOS Currents Tree of Life. 2013 Apr 18 [last modified: 2013 Apr 23]. Edition 1. doi: 10.1371 / currents.tol.53ba26640df0ccaee75bb165c8c26288 , PDF
  • Ralf Britz: Teleostei, bones fish ie S. Pages 240 to 262 in Wilfried Westheide & Reinhard Rieger : Special Zoology Part 2: Vertebrae and Skull Animals , Spectrum Academic Publishing House, Heidelberg / Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-8274-0307-3 .
  • Kurt Fiedler: Textbook of Special Zoology . 2nd volume. Part 2. Gustav Fischer Verlag, Jena 1991, ISBN 3-334-00339-6 . * Joseph S. Nelson : Fishes of the World . John Wiley & Sons, 2006, ISBN 0-471-25031-7 .
  • Ellen Thaler : The behavior of the Teleostei. Pages 262 to 264 in Wilfried Westheide & Reinhard Rieger: Special Zoology Part 2: Vertebrae and Skull Animals , Spectrum Academic Publishing Heidelberg • Berlin, 2004, ISBN 3-8274-0307-3 .

Individual evidence

  1. Erwin. J. Hentschel, Günther H. Wagner: "Zoological dictionary". 6th edition. Gustav Fischer Verlag, Jena, 1996.
  2. ^ EO Wiley, GD Johnson (2010), p. 129.
  3. ^ EO Wiley, G. David Johnson: A teleost classification based on monophyletic groups. in Joseph S. Nelson, Hans-Peter Schultze & Mark VH Wilson: Origin and Phylogenetic Interrelationships of Teleosts. 2010, Verlag Dr. Friedrich Pfeil, Munich, ISBN 978-3-89937-107-9 .
  4. R. Betancur-R., E. Wiley, N. Bailly, A. Acero, M. Miya, G. Lecointre, G. Ortí: Phylogenetic Classification of Bony Fishes (2017).
  5. ^ Joseph S. Nelson, Terry C. Grande, Mark VH Wilson: Fishes of the World. Wiley, Hoboken, New Jersey, 2016, ISBN 978-1118342336 .
  6. ^ Matthew G. Girard, Matthew P. Davis, W. Leo Smith: The Phylogeny of Carangiform Fishes: Morphological and Genomic Investigations of a New Fish Clade. Copeia, 108 (2): 265-298 (2020). doi: 10.1643 / CI-19-320
  7. Anthony Gill & Jeffrey M. Leis (2019): Phylogenetic position of the fish genera Lobotes, Datnioides and Hapalogenys , with a reappraisal of acanthuriform composition and relationships based on adult and larval morphology. Zootaxa, 4680 (1): 1-81. DOI: 10.11646 / zootaxa.4680.1.1

Web links

Commons : Teleostei  - collection of images, videos and audio files