BonytonguesGuo-Qing Li and Mark V. H. Wilson
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The Osteoglossomorpha are a teleostean superorder defined by Greenwood, Rosen, Weitzman, and Myers in 1966. They are interesting to both ichthyologists and paleontologists because of their anatomy, physiology, geographic distribution, and ancient fossil record. Various osteoglossomorphs display unusual specializations of anatomy, such as elongate anal and dorsal fins and peculiarities of the jaws related to feeding, and of physiology and behaviour, such as generation of electric fields. Several species are also popular in the aquarium trade. Exclusively freshwater fishes at least in the modern fauna, they display interesting biogeographic distributions including apparent examples of endemism of extant suprageneric taxa (Hiodontidae in North America, Mormyroidea and Pantodontidae in Africa), as well as circumtropical or old-world tropical distributions (Osteoglossidae and Notopteroidea).
With regard to the fossil record, Eocene-age fossil members of genera now included in Osteoglossidae have been known for more than a century (Leidy 1873). Eocene fossil Hiodontidae have been recognized since Cavender’s (1966) work on †Eohiodon. However, the superorder was seen to be much older than Eocene when Greenwood (1970) suggested that the Asian fossil genus †Lycoptera, of Late Jurassic or Early Cretaceous age, might be an osteoglossomorph. Since 1970 numerous fossil genera from all major continents except Antarctica have been added to the list of potential extinct osteoglossomorphs. Examples include †Brychaetus Woodward (1901), †Paralycoptera Chang and Chou (1977), †Laeliichthys Santos (1985), †Chandlerichthys Grande (1986), †Yanbiania Li (1987), and †Ostariostoma Schaeffer (1949) as discussed by Grande and Cavender (1991) and Li and Wilson (1996a). Recent phylogenetic interpretations of these and other fossil taxa (Li 1994a-b, 1996, 1997; Li and Wilson 1994, 1996a-b, and in press; Li, Grande, and Wilson 1997; Li, Wilson, and Grande 1997) have added important information on the early divergence and the historical biogeography of the superorder.
Osteoglossomorph fishes share the following derived features:
- Primary bite between parasphenoid and tongue.
- Absence of supramaxillary bone.
- Absence of supraorbital bone.
- Fusion of fourth and fifth infraorbital bones.
- Number epurals bones decreased to one or zero.
- 18-17 or fewer principal caudal fin rays.
- Paired tendon bones on 2nd hypobranchial (in extant species).
- Intestine passes to the left of the stomach (in extant species).
The Osteoglossomorpha consist of two orders containing living species, the Hiodontiformes or mooneyes and the Osteoglossiformes or bonytongues and relatives, along with two more primitive and exclusively fossil groups, the †Lycopteridae and †Kuyangichthidae. The two extant North American Hiodon species share two soft tissue character states with all other living osteoglossomorphs: 1) paired tendon bones on 2nd hypobranchial or 2nd hypobranchial and basibranchial, and 2) intestine coiling to the left of the esophagus and stomach (Nelson, 1972). These synapomorphies together define the monophyly of the Osteoglossomorpha (Li and Wilson, 1996b).
The order Hiodontiformes was erected by McAllister in 1968 and emended by Taverne in 1979. Since Bridge (1900) linked Hiodon with Notopterus based on the "swim bladder-ear connection", the Hiodontidae have been most often grouped in Notopteroidei with Notopteridae (Regan, 1909; Berg, 1940; Greenwood, 1963, 1970; Greenwood et al., 1966; Cavender, 1966; Patterson and Rosen, 1977; Grande, 1979; Lauder and Liem, 1983; J. S. Nelson, 1994), with the exception of Gosline (1960) and McAllister (1968). Recent study (see Li, 1994a; Li and Wilson, 1996a; Li, Wilson, and Grande, 1997) instead suggests a sister-group relationship between the Hiodontiformes and the Osteoglossiformes.
With the addition of the notopterids, the Osteoglossiformes form a well-defined monophyletic group supported by three synapomorphies:
- Nasal bone gutter-like or irregularly subrectangular
- Uroneural bones decreased to two or zero
- Branched caudal-fin rays 15 or fewer
The Asian fossil genus †Lycoptera Müller (1847) was formerly referred to the Esocidae or the †Leptolepidae (Woodward, 1901). Cockerell (1925) named the family †Lycopteridae and suggested that †Lycoptera might be “the ancestor of the Cyprinidae and their allies”. Berg (1940) grouped the family in Clupeiformes as suborder †Lycopteroidei; Yakovlev (1965) noted similarities between †Lycoptera and Arapaima, but Greenwood (1970) placed †Lycopteridae in the Hiodontoidea. Recent study suggests that †Lycopteridae are stem-group osteoglossomorphs, sister to all extant clades of the Osteoglossomorpha (Li and Wilson, 1996a, in press).
†Kuyangichthidae, named by Liu, Ma, and Liu (1982), probably consisting of †Tongxinichthys (Ma, 1980), †Kuyangichthys (Liu, Ma, and Liu , 1982), and †Jiuquanichthys (Ma, 1993), are tentatively considered to be a more primitive stem-group of Osteoglossomorpha, sister to †Lycopteridae plus all other osteoglossomorphs (Li and Wilson, in press). More evidence is needed concerning this possible relationship.
The systematic position of the Osteoglossomorpha has long been debated. Greenwood (1973) suggested a sister-group relationship between Osteoglossomorpha and Clupeomorpha, whereas Patterson and Rosen (1977), Lauder and Liem (1983), and J. S. Nelson (1994) considered Osteoglossomorpha to be the most primitive living teleosts. Arratia (1991) argued that elopomorphs are sister to osteoglossomorphs plus all other teleosts. We (Li and Wilson, 1996a) have not uncovered convincing synapomorphies for any of these alternatives; we therefore consider the extra-group relationships of the Osteoglossomorpha as still not well resolved.
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- First online 06 October 1998
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Li, Guo-Qing and Mark V. H. Wilson. 1998. Osteoglossomorpha. Bonytongues. Version 06 October 1998. http://tolweb.org/Osteoglossomorpha/15071/1998.10.06 in The Tree of Life Web Project, http://tolweb.org/