Cypriniform Tree of Life

[from 2004-2009]

Primary researcher: Gloria Arratia, Research Affiliate, Ichthyology


This large and collaborative research project resulted in the development of evolutionary hypotheses of relationships and taxonomic classifications for the fishes of the order Cypriniformes, the largest group of entirely freshwater fishes in the world with over 3,300 described species, with potentially as many as 2,600 species that may be new to science. This group contains the minnows, suckers, loaches, river loaches and algae eaters. Many of these fishes have economic and scientific importance. Several large carp are an important protein source in Asia, and paradoxically, are nuisance, invasive species in North America. The Zebrafish (Danio rerio) is a model organism for developmental biologists; the Fathead Minnow (Pimephales promelas) is used as an indicator species in environmental work; and the Goldfish (Carassius auratus) are widely studied by physiologists. Aquarists keep many cypriniform species, a hobby that has vast educational and economic impacts. This project is international in scope with over 27 collaborators with varying scientific specialties including paleontologists, morphologists, developmental biologists, and molecular systematists. Hypotheses of evolutionary relationships were inferred from genomic data for a set of nuclear and mitochondrial genes, including a subset of complete mitochondrial genomes as well as morphological data from fossil and extant species.