Butterfly fish

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Butterfly fish
Orange-striped butterflyfish (Chaetodon ornatissimus)

Orange-striped butterflyfish ( Chaetodon ornatissimus )

Sub-cohort : Neoteleostei
Spinefish (Acanthopterygii)
Perch relatives (Percomorphaceae)
Order : Surgeonfish (Acanthuriformes)
Family : Butterfly fish
Scientific name
Rafinesque , 1810

The butterfly fish (Chaetodon), also called bristle-toothed teeth , are a family of showy tropical marine fish . Their habitat are the coral reefs in the Atlantic , Indian and Pacific Oceans . The family name Chaetodontidae is derived from the Greek words chaite "hair" and odonto- "tooth". This refers to the small, brush-like teeth on their mouths. Butterfly fish are similar to members of the angelfish family (Pomacanthidae) but differ in their fin structure.


Tholichthys stage of a banner fish species

Butterfly fish are relatively small fish. Most of the species in this family are between 12 and 22 centimeters long. The largest representative, the giant butterflyfish ( Chaetodon lineolatus ), reaches a length of up to 30 cm. The family includes about 130 species in 12 genera.

Butterfly fish are often very colored fish - some species have color patterns of black, white, blue, red, orange, and yellow. Only a few species are inconspicuously colored. Many species have noticeable eye spots on the back of the dorsal fin. The function of this eye-spot is to irritate optically oriented predators; Predatory fish snap at these false eyes and are mistaken about the targeted escape direction of the prey. In most butterfly fish, the real eye adopts the pattern of the fish and thus becomes invisible to the predator, since no eye appears to him. So he snaps at the eye spot on the dorsal fin. Butterfly fish have showy high-backed, laterally flattened bodies; the anal fins are round in most species. Neither species has a forked anal fin.

After the larval stage, the animals have strong head armor for some time ( Tholichthys stage).

Way of life

Most species of the butterfly fish family live in up to 18 meters of water. A few species can also be found up to 180 meters deep. Some species, such as the copper striped tweezer fish, are territorial fish that live in pairs and defend their territory. The species that feed on plankton often form small schools. Butterflyfish hide in the reef at night and show a noticeably different color than during the day.

External system

For a long time, the angelfish (Pomacanthidae), which were previously considered a subfamily of the butterfly fish, were their closest relatives. According to a phylogenetic study published in 2007, the sister group of butterfly fish is a common taxon of angelfish and argus fish (Scatophagidae). A closer relationship, according to this study, even with the tax perch (Kyphosidae) and sickle fish (Drepaneidae). The latest phylogenetic studies, however, identify the pony fish (Leiognathidae) as a sister group of the butterfly fish; The new order Chaetodontiformes was established for the two families in 2014.

Internal system

The genus of butterfly fish can be summarized in two main classes, the butterfly fish, ie the "butterflyfishes" referred to in the English-language study, and the "bannerfishes", which includes the pennant fish and the tweezer fish.

The relationships are shown in the following cladogram :
 Butterfly fish 
 Pennant and tweezer fish 
















 Butterfly fish i. e. S. 




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Fossil record

A fossil butterflyfish Pygaeus frontalis is known from the mid- Eocene of the northern Italian Monte Bolca Formation, which arose from deposits of the Tethys . The recent genus Chaetodon has a representative from the Upper Miocene with Chaetodon ficheuri . Its fossil remains were found near Oran in Algeria.

Aquarium keeping

Because of the attractive coloration of these fish, they are often shown in public aquariums. Most species, however, are demanding keepers due to their feeding behavior. In aquariums, therefore, mainly the species that are food generalists are kept. For today's on private seawater lovers coral reef aquariums they are, with the exception of the copper strip Pinzettfischs ( Chelmon rostratus completely unsuitable), as they laboriously brought to grow stone and soft corals would eat in a short time.


Individual evidence

  1. a b c Fessler, JL & Westneat, MW: Molecular phylogenetics of the butterflyfishes (Chaetodontidae): Taxonomy and biogeography of a global coral reef fish family . In: Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. Vol. 45, No. 1, 2007, pp. 50-68, doi : 10.1016 / j.ympev.2007.05.018 .
  2. Betancur-R, R., E. Wiley, N. Bailly, M. Miya, G. Lecointre, and G. Ortí: Phylogenetic Classification of Bony Fishes. Version 3. DeepFin.org, July 31, 2014 (based on: Betancur-R. R, Broughton RE, Wiley EO, et al .: The Tree of Life and a New Classification of Bony Fishes. In: PLOS Currents Tree of Life. April 18, 2013, Edition 1, doi : 10.1371 / currents.tol.53ba26640df0ccaee75bb165c8c26288 ).
  3. ^ Karl Albert Frickhinger: Fossil Atlas Fish , Mergus-Verlag, Melle, 1999, ISBN 3-88244-018-X

Web links

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