Modifications in the Fish Classification in FishBase

Important note: The FishBase database and website must not be considered as publications for nomenclatural purposes. If a name would be demonstrated as new, it must be considered as not available under the ICZN provisions, Art. 8.2 (International Code of Zoological Nomenclature).

The position of the Scaridae/Scarinae/Scarini – parrotfishes (July 2023)

The Scaridae have been recognized as a valid taxonomic group since Rafinesque, 1810 (Van der Laan et al., 2014 and subsequent addenda), either as a subfamily or a sister-family of the Labridae. Hughes et al. (2023) proposed a phylogenomic analysis of large genome-wide sequence data sets to resolve the sister-group of Labridae (confirmed to be the Centrogenyidae as in Betancur-R et al., 2017) and the relationships inside the family. This study confirms the placement of Scaridae as a sub-group within the Labridae, which was already demonstrated by Westneat and Alfaro (2005) and subsequent works (see the introduction in Hughes et al., 2023, incl. Betancur-R et al., 2017). However, this latter result was not reflected in Catalog of Fishes (until Hughes et al. 2023) and FishBase.

FishBase is subjected to several constraints as detailed below (section Changes in March 2021) to propose a simplified classification. So far, none of the previous works presented a rather complete phylogeny for Labridae, as explained by Hughes et al. (2023), to derive such a classification. And still some issues remain.

Scaridae is a well-known group among the public, divers, small-scale fishermen, aquarist hobbyists, …, and an important source of subsistence food in coral-reef areas. In the technical current situation of FishBase, integrating the Scaridae into the Labridae would render the parrotfishes invisible in FishBase as a group, and would generate confusion for the public, and for fisheries statistics. Indeed, subfamilies are recorded in FishBase but at the species level classification where they cannot be searched on the web, unlike orders and families. Moreover Hughes et al. (2023) use the tribe rank, not the subfamily one, probably to denote the remaining issues.

There are 3 options to change the classification of Labridae to reflect the important result of Hughes et al. (2023), which are not mutually exclusive:

In other words, if we did not include the Scaridae in Labridae before, it is not because we rejected the works of M. Westneat and other colleagues, but because in the current status of knowledge and technology, it is difficult to integrate phylogenetic works into a simplified classification framework without confusing the public by certain drastic changes.

We would like to develop a phylogenetic module that would incorporate in “real-time” the most recent results, allowing to search for biological and ecological information using this (or competing) phylogenetic backbone. We welcome realistic partnership propositions!

Changes in February 2023

Since the previous major update in March 2021 (see below), we made a further change by replacing the class Actinopteri (that was confusing with Actinopterygii) by three classes, namely Chondrostei (sturgeons and paddlefishes), Holostei (bowfins and gars), and Teleostei (teleosts). These three groups and their names are currently valid but at ranks intermediary between Class and Order. We just uplifted them at class rank to highlight the Teleostei as a group in our simplified classification, which was missing up to now.

De facto, this flattened classification fails to represent the phylogenetic relationships, that should be read as follows (the phylogeny is also simplified).
Note that the 10 classes above are noted in bold:

Changes in March 2021

The latest edition of Fishes of the World – FoW (Nelson et al., 2016) integrated the recent wide-scope phylogenetic studies (e.g., Betancur-R et al., 2013, as DF for DeepFin, and others) resulting in a large re-organization of the bony fish classification at the top of the tree, i.e., Perciformes and Scorpaeniformes, and allies. We waited that the community supports these major changes, especially Catalog of Fishes (ECoF), which seems to be broadly the case despite some necessary continuous adjustments. This re-arrangement was postponed by Nelson in the previous FoW edition (2006, see comments under Scorpaeniformes) because he estimated rightly that the scopes of the studies at that time were not large enough.

Here are the constraints we followed:

Besides the bony fishes, Rays of the World (Last et al., 2016) made a number of changes after FoW2016 in Batoidea, but they were already integrated.

Main changes:

The current classification may change in the next 2-3 updates before a more stable classification is established. A comparison between FishBase2020, FoW2017, DF2017 and ECoF will be provided in the next update. Note that the complete DF2017 is available for each family in their family page (except for the newly described or modified ones since). One project is to have an additional page where species are organized along this phylogeny. See also why ECoF and FishBase are not updated at the same time.

Note that the information for orders and families are still being updated and not complete for this update.

Nicolas Bailly,
July 2023