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Temporal range: Jurassic – Recent
Retroculus (Cichlidae); Hairy Blenny, Labrisomus; Ogcocephalus and Acanthurus
Scientific classification

Teleosts are the dominant fish of the present day. They arose in the Mesozoic era, and include 20,000 living species. The oldest teleost fossils date back to the late Triassic. They evolved from fish like bowfins in the clade Holostei. During the Mesozoic and Cainozoic they diversified. 96 percent of all known fish species are teleosts.

They are, in order of evolution, vertebrates, jawed fish (Gnathostomata), bony fish (Osteichthyes) and ray-finned fish (Actinopterygii).[1][2][3]

Teleosts have a movable jaw and changes in the jaw muscles. These changes make it possible for them to protrude their jaws outwards from the mouth.[4] This adaptation improves their ability to grab fast-moving prey.[5][6]

Date of origin

The date of origin of the teleosts is a difficult problem. Two kinds of evidence are available. There is evidence from the fossil record, in which the first teleost comes from the late Triassic period.[7][8]

This date is somewhat later than molecular divergence time estimates (molecular clock). A recent paper finds that fossil dates and molecular clock dates are similar to each other.[9] These researchers atate:

"Divergence times estimated from relaxed-molecular clock analyses yield a comprehensive time-scale of actinopterygian diversification that is remarkably close to ages inferred from the fossil record".[9]
Actinopterygii 400 mya

part of "Chondrostei" Thus the former "Chondrostei" is paraphyletic (not a clade), and has been broken up by more recent studies.[9][10] Polypteridae (bichirs) Cuvier-105-Polyptère.jpg

part of "Chondrostei"

Acipenseriformes (sturgeons, paddlefish) Atlantic sturgeon flipped.jpg

Neopterygii 360 mya

Holostei (bowfins, gars) 275 mya Longnose gar flipped.jpg

Teleostei 210 mya Cyprinus carpio3.jpg


Actinistia (Coelacanths) Coelacanth flipped.png

Dipnoi (Lungfish) Barramunda coloured.jpg


Amphibians Deutschlands Amphibien und Reptilien (Salamandra salamdra).jpg


Mammals Phylogenetic tree of marsupials derived from retroposon data (Paucituberculata).png

Sauropsids (reptiles, birds) Description des reptiles nouveaux, ou, Imparfaitement connus de la collection du Muséum d'histoire naturelle et remarques sur la classification et les caractères des reptiles (1852) (Crocodylus moreletii).jpg

Evolution of ray-finned fish

Teleost superorders



  1. R. Froese and D. Pauly (eds) (2006). "FishBase". 
  2. Nelson, Joseph S. 2006. Fishes of the world. Wiley, N.Y.

    Template-specific style sheet:

    ISBN 0471250317.
  3. Helfman G. Collette B. & Facey D. 1997. The diversity of fishes. Blackwell, Oxford.

    Template-specific style sheet:

    ISBN 0-86542-256-7
  4. Ben Waggoner (1995-07-17). "Telostei". Museum of Paleontology, University of California, Berkeley. Retrieved 2006-06-08. 
  5. Video of a slingjaw wrasse catching prey by protruding its jaw
  6. Video of a red bay snook catching prey by suction feeding
  7. Kemp T.S. 1999. Fossils and evolution. Oxford University Press. p122

    Template-specific style sheet:

    ISBN 0198504241
  8. Palmer D. (ed) 1999. The Marshall illustrated encyclopedia of dinosaurs and prehistoric animals. London: Marshall Editions. p38

    Template-specific style sheet:

    ISBN 1-84028-152-9
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Near, Thomas J. et al 2012. Resolution of ray-finned fish phylogeny and timing of diversification. PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America). pp. 13698–13703. [1]
  10. Betancur-R, Ricardo (2013). "The Tree of Life and a new classification of bony fishes". PLOS Currents Tree of Life. doi:10.1371/currents.tol.53ba26640df0ccaee75bb165c8c26288 .