The other clade descending from speedy jacks includes slower eels and anglers

Earlier, and with fewer taxa,
the large reptile tree (LRT, 1535 taxa, subset Fig. 1) nested European eels (Anguilla) with pikes (Esox) and barracuda (Sphyraena). With the addition of new taxa the transitions between the earlier forms become smoother, easier to understand and more complete.

Figure 1. Subset of the LRT focusing on basal vertebrates (fish) and the clade that gave rise to eels and frogfish.

Figure 1. Subset of the LRT focusing on basal vertebrates (fish) and the clade that gave rise to eels and frogfish.

You might ALSO remember,
earlier we looked at a species of amberjack, Seriola rivoliana, which nests basal to pufferfish, molas, triggerfish and mudskippers. Another species of speedy Seriola (Fig. 2) is the focus of today’s blogpost.

Figure 2. Seriola zonata, the banded rudder fish, is basal to cusk eels and frogfish in the LRT.

Figure 2. Seriola zonata, the banded rudder fish, is basal to cusk eels and frogfish in the LRT.

Today, with additional taxa
European eels are moved away from pikes with intervening, transitional taxa, including a second species of amberjack, the banded rudder fish, Seriola zonata (Valenciennnes 1833). In the LRT S. zonata is basal to eels, frogfish, anglers, knife fish and electric eels (Fig. 1). Notably, none of these derived taxa are speedy, open-water predators distinct from S. zonata. Aparently all derived taxa have slower lifestyles and thus many became bottom dwellers. Note the almost identical skulls shown in figures 2 and 3, despite their postcranial differences.

Seriola zonata (Valenciennnes 1833; commonly 50cm, up to 75cm) is the extant banded rudderfish. Here it nests basal to the European eel (Fig. 4) and cusk eel (Fig. 3). Large individuals (over 10 inches) have no bands. This fish, though commonly caught, is rarely identified. Large ones, with a raccoon-stripe on the eye and an iridescent gold stripe on the side, are usually called amberjacks when caught, and juveniles are called pilotfish.

Figure 3. Dicrolene, the cusk eel, nests close to S. rivoliana in the LRT.

Figure 3. Dicrolene, the cusk eel, nests close to S. rivoliana in the LRT.

Dicrolene nigracaudis (Goode and Bean 1883, Alcock 1899, Dicrolene introniger shown below) is a rare species of deep sea cusk eel, family Ophidiiformes. Distinct from true eels, cusk eels have pelvic fins transformed into barbels below the pectoral fins. The lower half of each long pectoral fin is transformed into a set of bottom feeling rays.

European eels
are longer-skulled versions of cusk eels in the LRT.

 

Figure 2. The skull of Anguilla from Gregory 1936, with bones colored here and matched to an invivo photo. This is a revised illustration.

Figure 5. The skull of Anguilla from Gregory 1936, with bones colored here and matched to an invivo photo. This is a revised illustration.

Anguilla anguilla (Linneaus 1758; up to 80cm in length, 1.5 exceptionally) is the extant European eel, a sister to the cusk eel in the LRT. Like DicroleneAnguillal acks several facial bones, pelvic fins and the tail has reverted to a straight tail. The life cycle includes breeding and young hatching in the mid-Atlantic with migration back to European rivers before the adults return to the mid-Atlantic. Bones are relabeled here based on sister taxa.

This appears to be a novel hypothesis of interrelationships
that links previously unlinked taxa. If I missed a citation that predates this one that supports this hypothesis of interrelationships, please send me the citation.

Figure 4. Antennarius, the frogfish, nests basal to anglerfish, derived from S. rivoliana.

Figure 4. Antennarius, the frogfish, nests basal to anglerfish, derived from S. rivoliana.

Antennarius sp. (Daudin 1816) is the extant frogfish, a bottom-dwelling sit-and-wait predator with a lure and an enormous gape. The pelvic fins are anterior to the pectoral fins. Both are used to walk on the sea floor. Note the separation of the parietals by the postparietals. Although Antennarius superficially resembles an angler, it is as sister to Seriola zonata (above).

Earlier we looked at the connection between the remaining clade members: anglers, cave fish and electric eels.

Figure 7. Lophius, the anglerfish, nests between frogfish and electric eels in the LRT.

Figure 5. Lophius, the anglerfish, nests between frogfish and electric eels in the LRT.

Lophius americanus (Rafinesque 1810; up to 1.5m in length) is the extant goosefish or monkfish. The closest relative in the LRT is the electric eel, Electrophorus. The pelvic fins are small and anteroventral to the pectoral fins.

The LRT continues to bring diverse clades of fish together,
reducing the number of clades and illuminating interrelationships.

Figure 5. Skull of the electric eel (Electrophorus) distinct from the moray eel (Fig. 4) and European eel (Fig. 2).

Figure 6. Skull of the electric eel (Electrophorus) distinct from the moray eel (Fig. 4) and European eel (Fig. 2).

Electrophorus electricus (originally Gymnotus electricus, Linneaus 1766; Gill 1864; up to 2m in length) is the extant electric eel, an obligate air breather nesting between Lophius and Gymnotus (Fig. 7). Electric organs that deliver shocks to enemies and prey make up 80% of the body.

Figure 6. Gymnotus, the knife fish.

Figure 7. Gymnotus, the knife fish.

Gymnotus carapo (Linneaus 1758; up to 100cm in length) is the extant banded knifefish, a nocturnal small prey predator with essentially no dorsal, caudal or pelvic fins. The anal fin undulates for slow propulsion. The electric signal is weak.

Figure 8. Skull of Gymnotus.

Figure 8. Skull of Gymnotus.

I never knew fish could be so fascinating.
And I never thought I would be among the first to employ phylogenetic skeletal traits to recover this branch of the tree of life. There has been too much dependence on gene studies, which likewise don’t produce a gradual accumulation of derived traits for all sister taxa for other vertebrate clades over deep time. Soon we will take a look at the differences between a genomic fish tree and a phenomic fish tree. You’ll see.


References
Alcock AW 1899. A descriptive catalogue of the Indian deep-sea fishes in the Indian Museum. International Publisher, USA 87 pp.
Cubelio SS, Joseph J, Venu S, Deepu AV and Kurup BM 2009. Redescription of Dicrolene nigracaudis (Alcock, 1899) a rare species of deep sea cusk eel (Ophidiiformes; Ophidiidae) from Indian EEZ. Indian Journal of Marine Sciences 38(2):166–169.
Daudin FM 1816. Antennarius. In: Dictionaire des sciences naturelles.
Goode GB and Bean TH 1883. Reports on the results of dredging under the supervision of Alexander Agassiz, on the east coast of the United States, during the summer of 1880, by the U. S. coast survey steamer Blake, C, Bulletin of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College 10 (5), pp. 183-226: 202 .
Linnaeus C von 1758. Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata.
Valenciennnes A in Cuvier G and Valenciennes A 1833. Histoire naturelle des poissons. Tome neuvième. Suite du livre neuvième. Des Scombéroïdes. 9: i-xxix + 3 pp. + 1-512. Pls. 246-279.,

wiki/Seriola
wiki/Amberjack
wiki/Antennarius

wiki/Cusk-eels
wiki/Dicrolene
wiki/European_eel

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