Phylogenetic relationships and evolutionary history of the reef fish family Labridae. Academic Article uri icon


  • The family Labridae (including scarines and odacines) contains 82 genera and about 600 species of fishes that inhabit coastal and continental shelf waters in tropical and temperate oceans throughout the world. The Labridae (the wrasses) is the fifth largest fish family and second largest marine fish family, and is one of the most morphologically and ecologically diversified families of fishes in size, shape, and color. Labrid phylogeny is a long-standing problem in ichthyology that is part of the larger question of relationships within the suborder Labroidei. A phylogenetic analysis of labrids was conducted to investigate relationships among the six classical tribes of wrasses, the affinities of the wrasses to the parrotfishes (scarines), and the broad phylogenetic structure among labrid genera. Four gene fragments were sequenced from 98 fish species, including 84 labrid fishes and 14 outgroup taxa. Taxa were chosen from all major labrid clades and most major global ocean regions where labrid fishes exist, as well as cichlid, pomacentrid, and embiotocid outgroups. From the mitochondrial genome we sequenced portions of 12S rRNA (1000 bp) and 16S rRNA (585 bp), which were aligned by using a secondary structure model. From the nuclear genome, we sequenced part of the protein-coding genes RAG2 (846 bp) and Tmo4C4 (541 bp). Maximum likelihood, maximum parsimony, and Bayesian analyses on the resulting 2972 bp of DNA sequence produced similar topologies that confirm the monophyly of a family Labridae that includes the parrotfishes and butterfishes and strong support for many previously identified taxonomic subgroups. The tribe Hypsigenyini (hogfishes, tuskfishes) is the sister group to the remaining labrids and includes odacines and the chisel-tooth wrasse Pseudodax moluccanus, a species previously considered close to scarines. Cheilines and scarines are sister-groups, closely related to the temperate Labrini, and pseudocheilines and cheilines are split in all phylogenies. The razorfishes (novaculines) and temperate pseudolabrines form successive sister clades to the large crown group radiation of the Julidini. The cleaner wrasses (Labrichthyini) are nested within this radiation and several julidine genera do not appear to be monophyletic (e.g., Coris and Halichoeres). Invasion of temperate water by this predominantly tropical group has occurred multiple times and the reconstruction of biogeography assuming an Indo-Pacific ancestor results in five different lineages invading the Atlantic/Caribbean region. Functional novelties in the feeding apparatus have allowed labrid fishes to occupy nearly every feeding guild in reef environments, and trophic variation is a central axis of diversification in this family.

publication date

  • August 2005