Acanthomorpha (meaning "thorn-shaped") is an extraordinarily diverse taxon of teleost fishes with spiny rays. The clade contains about one-third of the world's modern species of vertebrates: over 14,000 species.[2]

Temporal range: 100–0 Ma
Blochius longirostris.jpg
Blochius longirostris
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Infraclass: Teleostei
(unranked): Acanthomorpha
Rosen, 1973[1]

A key anatomical innovation in acanthomorphs is hollow and unsegmented spines at the anterior edge of the dorsal and anal fins.[3] A fish can extend these sharp bony spines to protect itself from predators, but can also retract them to decrease drag when swimming.[4] Another shared feature is a particular rostral cartilage, associated with ligaments attached to the rostrum and premaxilla, that enables the fish to protrude its jaws considerably to catch food.[5]

Rosen coined the name in 1973 to describe a clade comprising Acanthopterygii, Paracanthopterygii, and also ctenothrissiform fossils from the Cretaceous Period, such as Aulolepis and Ctenothrissa. Those fossils share several details of the skeleton, and especially of the skull, with modern acanthomorphs.[1] Originally based on anatomy, Acanthomorpha has been borne out by more recent molecular analyses.[6]


The phylogeny of living bony fishes[7][8][9][10]


Lampridiformes (oarfish, opah, ribbonfish)  


Percopsiformes (troutperches)  


Zeiformes (dories)  


Stylephoriformes (tube-eyes, thread-fins)

Gadiformes (cods)  


Polymixiiformes (beardfish)  


Beryciformes (alfonsinos; whalefishes)  

Trachichthyiformes (pinecone fishes; slimeheads)  


Holocentriformes (squirrelfish; soldier fishes)  


Fossil record and evolutionary historyEdit

Some otoliths, calcium carbonate structures that form the ears of fishes, have been found from the Jurassic Period that may belong to acanthomorphs, but the oldest body fossils from this taxon are only known from the middle of the Cretaceous Period, about 100 million years ago. Acanthomorphs from the early Late Cretaceous were small, typically about 4 centimeters long, and fairly rare.[11] Toward the beginning of the Cenozoic era, they exploded in an adaptive radiation, so by the time their fossils begin appear more frequently in Eocene-aged strata, they had reached their modern diversity of 300 families.[4]

Recently discovered fish scales from Poland suggest that the oldest acanthomorphs occurred in the Late Triassic.[12]

Some examples of extinct acanthomorph genera include:

Timeline of generaEdit

QuaternaryNeogenePaleogeneCretaceousHolocenePleistocenePlioceneMioceneOligoceneEocenePaleoceneLate CretaceousEarly CretaceousPseudotetrapterusPalaeorhynchusHomorhynchusAsineopsBlochiusEnniskillenusCongorhynchusCylindracanthusPharmacichthysOmosomopsisQuaternaryNeogenePaleogeneCretaceousHolocenePleistocenePlioceneMioceneOligoceneEocenePaleoceneLate CretaceousEarly Cretaceous



  1. ^ a b Rosen, Donn Eric (1973), "Interrelationships of higher euteleostean fishes", in Greenwood, P.H.; Miles, R.S.; Patterson, Colin (eds.), Interrelationships of Fishes, Academic Press, pp. 397–513, ISBN 0-12-300850-6
  2. ^ Chen, Wei-Jen; Bonillo, Céline; Lecointre, Guillaume (2003). "Repeatability of clades as a criterion of reliability: a case study for molecular phylogeny of Acanthomorpha (Teleostei) with larger number of taxa". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 26 (2): 262–288. doi:10.1016/s1055-7903(02)00371-8. PMID 12565036.
  3. ^ acanthomorphs group, of the phylogeny team, "What are the acanthomorphs?", AcanthoWeb, UPMC, Paris – UMR 7138, Systématique, Adaptation, Évolution, retrieved October 24, 2012
  4. ^ a b Maisey, John G. (1996), Discovering fossil fishes, Henry Holt & Company
  5. ^ Johnson, G. David; Wiley, E.O. (2007), "Acanthomorpha", Tree of Life Web Project, retrieved October 24, 2012
  6. ^ Near, Thomas J.; Eytan, Ron I.; Dornburg, Alex; Kuhn, Kristen L.; Moore, Jon A.; Davis, Matthew P.; Wainwright, Peter C.; Friedman, Matt; Smith, W. Leo (2012). "Resolution of ray-finned fish phylogeny and timing of diversification". PNAS. 109 (34): 13698–13703. Bibcode:2012PNAS..10913698N. doi:10.1073/pnas.1206625109. PMC 3427055. PMID 22869754.
  7. ^ Betancur-R; et al. (2013). "The Tree of Life and a New Classification of Bony Fishes". PLOS Currents Tree of Life. 5 (Edition 1). doi:10.1371/currents.tol.53ba26640df0ccaee75bb165c8c26288. PMC 3644299. PMID 23653398. Archived from the original on 2013-10-13.
  8. ^ Betancur-R; et al. (2013). "Complete tree classification (supplemental figure)" (PDF). PLOS Currents Tree of Life (Edition 1). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-10-21.
  9. ^ Betancur-R; et al. (2013). "Appendix 2 – Revised Classification for Bony Fishes" (PDF). PLOS Currents Tree of Life (Edition 1).
  10. ^ Betancur-Rodriguez; et al. (2016). "Phylogenetic Classification of Bony Fishes Version 4". Deepfin. Retrieved 30 December 2016.
  11. ^ Stewart, J.D. (1996), "Cretaceous acanthomorphs of North America", in Arratia, Gloria; Viohl, Günter (eds.), Mesozoic Fishes – Systematics and Paleoecology, Verlag Dr. Friedrich Pfeil, pp. 383–394, ISBN 3-923871-90-2
  12. ^ Antczak, Mateusz; Bodzioch, Adam (January 2018). "Diversity of Fish Scales in Late Triassic Deposits of Krasiejów (SW Poland)". Paleontological Research. 22 (1): 91–100. doi:10.2517/2017pr012. ISSN 1342-8144. S2CID 133634757.