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Family Taxonomy

Australian species of the family Galaxiidae were reviewed and figured by McDowall & Frankenberg (1981). The family comprises about 40 species in eight genera, with 22 species in four genera found in Australia. Begle (1991) has combined the Aplochitonidae with the Galaxiidae, which is followed by Nelson (1994). The aplochitonins were reviewed by McDowall (1971), who recognised two genera for two species of peladillos from South America (Aplochiton) and one species of Tasmanian whitebait from Australia (Lovettia). Tarmo Raadik is currently revising the Galaxias olidus complex and is describing a number of new species. Debate continues as to the placement of Lepidogalaxias salamandroides. Recent studies by Li et al (2010) and McDowall and Burridge (2011) suggest that Lepidogalaxias is the sister group to all other euteleostean fishes.

Family Distribution

Restricted to temperate waters of the Southern Hemisphere, with species in Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, South America and South Africa. Although galaxiids primarily freshwater fishes, some species are diadromous with marine post larval and juvenile stages. Some species are pelagic, whereas others are live on or near the bottom.

Family Description

Most galaxiids have no fin spines, scales or adipose fins, the dorsal and anal fins are posterior and opposite and the body is elongate and tubular. Aplochitonins have a short-based, anterior dorsal fin, posterior ventrals and an adipose fin. Lepidogalaxias is scaled.

Family Size

Generally species reach less than 250 mm, although one species attains 600 mm.

Family Feeding

Galaxiids feed on a wide variety of invertebrates, including insects, crustaceans, polychaetes and molluscs.

Family Reproduction

At least one South American species of aplochitonin apparently breeds in either marine or fresh water, while the Australian species is anadromous, living most of its life in the sea, but spawning in freshwater rivers.

Family Commercial

During their return to fresh water, galaxiids are known as whitebait, and are of minor commercial importance in Tasmania.

References


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Begle, D.P. 1991. Relationships of the osmeroid fishes and the use of reductive characters in phylogenetic analysis. Syst. Zool. 40(1): 33–53.

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Li, J, R. Xia, R.M. McDowall, J.A. Lopez, G. Lei & C. Fu. 2010. Phylogenetic position of the enigmatic Lepidogalaxias salamandroides with comment on the orders of lower euteleostean fishes. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 57: 932-936.

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Waters, J.M., J.A. López & G.P. Wallis. 2000. Molecular phylogenetics and biogeography of galaxiid fishes (Osetichthyes: Galaxiidae): dispersal, vicariance, and the position of Lepidogalaxius salamandroides. Systematic Biology 49(4): 775-795.

Waters, J.M. & McDowall, R.M. 2005. Phylogenetics of the Australasian mudfishes: evolution of an eel-like body plan. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 34: 417–425.

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