Mostly small schooling fishes with silvery streamlined bodies, large scales, a single short-based dorsal fin, abdominal pelvic fins and a forked tail. Many species have a well-developed row of scutes along the belly, and some have a row of scutes behind the head.
The Clupeiformes contains two major suborders: the Denticeiitoidei from fresh waters of Africa, and the Clupeiodei, which includes four families, all known from Australia. Most species area treated in Whitehead (1985) and Whitehead et al. (1988). Lecointree & Nelson (1996) discussed relationships and suggested a close relationship with Ostariophysi (minnows and catfishes).
Lecointree, G. & Nelson, G. 1996. Clupeomorpha, sister-group of Ostariophysi. pp. 193-207 in Stiassny, M.L.J., Parenti, L.R. & Johnson, G.D. (eds). Interrelationships of Fishes. San Diego : Academic Press 496 pp.
Whitehead, P.J.P. 1985. FAO species catalog. Clupeoid fishes of the world (suborder Clupeoidei). Part 1 — Chirocentridae, Clupeidae and Pristigasteridae. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 125 Vol. 7 Pt 1. pp. 1–303
Whitehead, P.J.P., Nelson, G.J. & Wongratana, T. 1988. FAO Species Catalogue. Clupeoid fishes of the world (Suborder Clupeoidei). An annotated and illustrated catalogue of the herrings, sardines, pilchards, sprats, anchovies and wolf-herrings. Engraulididae. FAO Fisheries Synopsis. No. 125 Vol. 7 Pt 2. 305–579 pp.