The garden eel, Gorgasia, enters the LRT apart from other eels

Apparently there are far too many traditional fish clades
and they are disordered according to results recovered in the LRT. The traditional and academic phylogenetic lumping and splitting of fish, as in mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, needs a major overhaul.

Figure 1. Garden eels (Gorgasia) in vivo arising from the burrows to feed on arriving plankton. Note the ability to bend the neck, rare for any fish except the salamander fish, Lepidogalaxias (Fig. 4).

Gorgasia punctata (Meek and Hildebrand 1923; 50cm; Figs. 1–3) is the dotted garden eel. This basal rayfin fish is a lancelet mimic, burrowing tail first in soft sand, rising to feed on plankton currents, never leaving its burrow. Reproduction is by external fertilization. Juveniles swim freely for the first year. Colonies burrow together. Like its ancestor, the salamander fish, Lepidogalaxias (Fig. 4), the garden eel can bend its neck, a rare trait in fish.

Figure 2. Line drawing of the garden eel, Gorgansia, overall and focused on the head and pectoral region. Upper, complete view about 1/2 actual size. Lower view about 1.5x actual size.
Figure 3. Skull of the garden eel, Gorgasia punctata, from Rosenblatt

in the large reptile tree (LRT, 1837+ taxa) the garden eel, Gorgasia, nests among basal ray-fin fish between the salamanderfish, Lepidogalaxias, and the viperfish, Chauliodus. These three form a tight little clade in the LRT, but not in traditional fish systematics:

Lepidogalaxias – family: Lepidogalaxiidae, order: Lepidogalaxiiformes
Gorgasia – family: Congridae, order: Anguilliformes
Chauliodus – family: Stomidae, order: Stomiformes

Fig. 4. Cladogram of basal ray fin fish at full scale.

Why are these three taxa
not all recognized as members of the order Lepidogalaxiiformes? Apparently there are too many traditional fish clades and some that are not yet recognized other than in the LRT.

Not all ‘eels’
are members of the European eel clade, Anguilliformes. The eel-like morphology arose several times by convergence. The moray eel (Gymnothorax) is not related to either the garden eel or European eel in the LRT. Neither is the electric eel (Electrophorus).

Deep sea taxa,
like the viperfish (Fig. 5), have shalllow sea ancestors, like the salamanderfish (fig. 4) and garden eel (Figs. 1–3).

Figure 3. Chauliodus, the viperfish, in vivo.
Figure 5. Chauliodus, the viperfish, in vivo.

Paleontology and ichthyology students
and professors have been overspecializing, looking at individual taxa without understanding their trait-based relationships to one another in a general sense. The overall view of fish interrelationships needs a thorough house-cleaning according to results recovered by the LRT and exemplified by the garden eel problems noted above. Sorry to have to bring you such results, especially if you’re paying tuition in a paleontology major, but this is what happens when you minimize taxon exclusion, as in the LRT.

The presented hypothesis of interrelationships
(above and in the LRT) appears to be novel. If you run across a prior citation, please bring it to my attention so I can promote it.

Meek SE and Hildebrand SF 1923. The marine fishes of Panama. Part I. Field Museum of Natural History, Publications, Zoölogical Series 15 (publ. 215): i-xi + 1-330, Pls. 1-24.
Rosenblatt RH 1967 (1989). The osteology of the congrid eel Gorgasia punctata and the relationships of the Heterocongrinae. Pacific Science 21(1):91–97.


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