Taxonomy Helper

Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS)

Bony fishes

    Kingdom: Animalia
    Division: Chordata
    Subdivision: Vertebrata
    Superclass: Osteichthyes

Biological Indicators
of Watershed Health

Stoneflies (Plecoptera)
[Photograph: EPA]

The objective of the Clean Water Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters. Fish, insects, algae, plants and other aquatic organisms can act as biological indicators, providing accurate information about the health of waterbodies such as lakes, streams, rivers, wetlands, estuaries, and coral reefs.

The presence, condition, and numbers of the types of these plants and animals reflect current conditions, as well as changes over time and cumulative effects. Through direct observation and monitoring, scientists can identify problems and stressors in aquatic ecosystems.

Learn more about biological indicators of watershed health.

[Source: U.S. EPA]

NBII Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Site

For more information about Fishes nationwide, visit the NBII Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (NBII-FAR) Web site []. There you can find further Web resources on fishes and aquatic organisms and the diverse factors affecting aquatic resources nationally.

The NBII Fisheries and Aquatic Resources site features species information and lists, population and habitat maps and data, information about endangered species, freshwater and marine fishes, and conservation initiatives such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Fish Hatchery System.

The NBII helps you stay informed about upcoming conferences and meetings and find NBII-FAR partners including:

Bullet point American Fisheries Society
Bullet point FishBase
Bullet point National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Fisheries Program
Bullet point U.S. Geological Survey, Fisheries, Aquatic and Endangered Resources Program
Bullet point U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Fisheries and Habitat Conservation

For more about fishes in the Southeast, visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Fisheries Program, Southeast Region Web site and the U.S. Geological Survey Florida Integrated Science Center Southeastern Aquatic Fauna Web site.

National Marine Sanctuaries

Map of National Marine Sanctuaries in the USA
courtesy of NOAA

You may also want to take a look at the sites of NOAA's Ocean Service and National Marine Sanctuaries program:
National Ocean Service
National Marine Sanctuaries Program

OneFish Directory

OneFish logo



The OneFish community directory is a fishery projects portal and participatory resource gateway for the fisheries and aquatic research and development sector worldwide. Freshwater fisheries topics are subdivided into a number of categories and subtopics. Resources for each topic include: documents, websites, projects, news, events, mulitmedia, jobs, institutes, and discussions.

Fishes (superclass Agnatha, superclass Chondrichthyes, and superclass Osteicthyes)

What is a Fish?
Fishes are vertebrates belonging to any of three taxonomic groups: superclass Agnatha, class Chondrichthyes, and superclass Osteicthyes. Fishes with bony skeletons and fins are members of superclass Osteicthyes, while fishes with skeletons formed of cartilage are members of class Chondrichthyes. Fishes such as lampreys that lack jaws are members of superclass Agnatha . Fishes include familiar animals such as Catfishes (order Siluriformes) and Salmons (order Salmoniformes). Thought of as "cold-blooded," fishes are ectotherms, meaning they are unable to regulate their own body temperature independently of the temperature of their surroundings. Fish characteristics include anatomy adapted for aquatic life including gills, streamlined body shape, fins, and skin covered by scales. Reproduction strategy among fishes can vary, ranging from bearing live young to egg laying.

In Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee, fishes are represented by numerous taxonomic orders seen below:

Superclass Agnatha

Brook lamprey (Lampetra sp.) [Photo: Isle Royale National Park]

Lampreys (order Petromyzontiformes)

Class Chondricthyes

Sharks [Photo: NOAA]

Ground sharks (order Carcharhiniformes)

Superclass Osteicthyes

Mooneye (Hiodon tergisus) [Photo: Great Lakes Environmental Research Library, NOAA]

Bonytoungues (order Osteoglossiformes)

Bowfin (Amia calva ) [Copyright: Ohio Department of Natural Resources, used with permission]

Bowfin (order Amiiformes)

Catfishes (order Siluriformes)

Catfishes (order Siluriformes)

Burbot (Lota lota) [Image: NOAA Great Lakes Ecological Research Lab]

Cods (order Gadiformes)

Banded Topminnow (Fundulus cingulatus ) [Photo: Howard Jelks, U.S. Geological Survey]

Cyprinodonts, killifishes (order Cyprinodontiformes)

Tennessee Shiner (Notropis leuciodus) [Photo: Noel Burkhead, U.S. Geological Survey]

Cyprins, Minnows, Suckers (order Cypriniformes)

American eel (Anguilla rostrata ) [Image: NOAA Great Lakes Ecological Research Lab]

Eels (order Anguilliformes)

Hog Choker (Trinectes maculatus) [Image: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service]

Flatfishes, Flounders (order Pleuronectiformes)

Spotted Gar (Lepisosteus oculatus ) [Photo: Wayne Davis, U.S. EPA]

Gars (order Semionotiformes)

Bay anchovy (Anchoa mitchilli) [Image: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ]

Herrings (order Clupeiformes)

Redbellied Pacu (Piaractus brachypomus) [Photo: U.S. Geological Survey Nonindigenous Aquatic Species]

Leporins, Piranhas (order Characiformes)

Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy) [Photo: Wayne Davis, U.S. EPA]

Mudminnows, Pikes (order Esociformes)

Striped Mullet (Mugil cephalus) [Image: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service]

Mullets (order Mugiliformes)

Atlantic Needlefish (Strongylura marina ) [Image: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ]

Needlefishes (order Beloniformes)

Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens0 [Photo: Wayne Davis, U.S. EPA]

Paddlefishes, Spoonfishes, Sturgeons (order Acipenseriformes)

Perch-like fishes (order Perciformes)

Perch-like fishes (order Perciformes)

Brook Stickleback (Culaea inconstans) [Copyright: Ohio Dept. of Natural Resources]

Pipefishes, Sticklebacks (order Gasterosteiformes)

Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) [Photo: U.S. EPA]

Salmons (order Salmoniformes)

Tidewater silverside (Menidia beryllina) [Image: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ]

Silversides (order Atheriniformes)

Rainbow Smelt (Osmerus mordax) [Image: NOAA Great Lakes Ecological Research Lab]

Smelts (order Osmeriformes)

Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus) [Image: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ]

Tarpons (order Elopiformes)

Alabama Cavefish (Speoplatyrhinus poulsoni) [Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service]

Trout-perches (order Percopsiformes)

Ecological Importance of Fishes
Fishes play several important roles in aquatic ecosystems. As consumers, they help regulate populations of aquatic organisms they prey upon, including aquatic invertebrates, plants and algae, and other fishes and smaller animals. Scavenging fishes contribute to water quality by removing decaying organic matter from the ecosystem as they feed. As prey items, fish, fish fry (juvenile fish), and fish eggs are consumed by a variety of predators, both terrestrial and aquatic.

Fishes of the Southeastern United States
The southeastern United States is home to an unparalleled diversity of temperate freshwater fishes. Within southeastern U.S. states including Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Virginia, and Kentucky, there are 530 freshwater fish taxa, representing 66 percent of all freshwater species in North America (Hamilton, 2003). The Southeast has approximately 485 known species of native freshwater fishes, representing 27 taxonomic families (Walsh, Burkhead, and Williams, 1995). Of those 27 families, five have the greatest diversity: perches, minnows, madtoms and bullhead catfishes, suckers, sunfishes and basses. Freshwater species diversity can be attributed to the abundant major river systems in the region, including the Ohio, Tennessee, Cumberland, and Mobile Rivers and tributaries.

In Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Tennessee, freshwater and marine fish species number as follows: in Alabama, there are 340 species including 12 exotic species; in Kentucky, there are 263 species including 14 exotic species; in Mississippi, there are 253 species including 13 exotic species; in Tennessee, there are 307 species including 10 exotic species [source: NatureServe Explorer Database].

For more about marine and freshwater fishes of Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Tennessee, refer to the NBII catalog query for fishes on our "Fishes Web Resources" page listed on the navigation menu at left.

  • Hamilton, S.D. Jewels in our Waters . Endangered Species Bulletin. ENDANGERED SPECIES BULLETIN MARCH/APRIL 2003 VOLUME XXVIII NO. 2. Retrieved from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Web site, July 16, 2008:
  • Integrated Taxonomic Information System [on-line database]. Available (Accessed April 2009).
  • NatureServe. 2008. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.0. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available (Accessed: May, 2008).
  • Walsh, S. J., N. M. Burkhead, and J. D. Williams. 1995. Southeastern freshwater fishes . Pp. 144-147 In: E. T. LaRoe, G. S. Farris, C. E. Puckett, P. D. Doran, and M. J. Mac (eds.). Our living resources: a report to the nation on the distribution, abundance, and health of U.S. plants, animals, and ecosystems . U.S. Department of the Interior, National Biological Service, Washington, DC. 530 pp. Retrieved September 15, 2009 from Southeastern Fishes Council Web site:

  • Eastern Brook Trout

    Eastern Brook Trout
    [Photograph: Eastern Brook Trout Joint Venture]

    Eastern Brook Trout
    Salvelinus fontinalis

    Description: Freshwater trout species.

    Life History: Spawns during day in late summer (in north) or fall. Eggs hatch in 47 days at 10 C, in 165 days at 2.8 C. In Ontario, alevin emergence occurred over a 71-day period, coinciding with the spring thaw and an episodic pH depression (Snucins et al. 1992). Sexually mature in 2-3 years (also reported as first year for males, 2nd year for females). Only small percentages of returning migrants actually spawn; post-spawning mortality generally is low (Stearley 1992).

    Habitat: Clear cool well-oxygenated creeks, small to medium rivers, and lakes. May move from streams into lakes or sea to avoid high temperatures in summer. Preferred temperature 14-16 C; does poorly where water temperature exceeds 20 C for extended periods (see Sublette et al. 1990). Spawns usually over gravel beds in shallow headwaters but also may spawn successfully in gravelly shallows of lakes if spring (groundwater) upwelling and moderate current, or nearby surficial inflow (Quinn 1995), are present. Eggs buried in nest in gravel. In Ontario, eggs were buried at 7-20 cm in bottom substrate (Snucins et al. 1992).

    Distribution: Native to most of eastern Canada from Newfoundland to western side of Hudson Bay, south in Atlantic, Great Lakes, and Mississippi River basins to Minnesota and (in the Appalachians) northern Georgia; introduced in western North America and temperate regions in many other parts of the world.

    Status: Introduced populations of brook trout have contributed to the decline of native fishes, amphibians, and invertebrates in cold streams and lakes in western North America (see Adams et al. 2002). Prevention of further invasion has become a major concern (Adams et al. 2002).

    Resources: Go to the full NatureServe species report.



    Fishbase is a searchable global database of fish species information.

    FishBase on the web contains practically all fish species known to science. Search over 28,000 fish species by common name, scientific name, ecosystem, or country. Or, use the search feature to find tools, maps, or references.

    Learn more about FishBase.

    North American Native Fishes

    NANFA logoThe North American Native Fishes Association aims to increase and disseminate knowledge about North America's native fishes and their habitats. Visit their website for a complete listing of the freshwater fishes of North America.

    Species Spotlight

    lamprey laying in the grass being held down by a hand
    Johnny Jensen

    Sea Lamprey
    Petromyzon marinus

    Description: Sea lampreys are eel-like fish with a sucker mouth.

    Life History: Sea lampreys are parasites. They suction their mouths onto other fish, feeding on the blood and fluids of their host. The introduction of sea lampreys has been linked to the decline of many native fish in the Great Lakes.

    Distribution: Native to coastal regions of the Atlantic Ocean and ascend freshwater rivers to spawn.

    They have spread to all the Great Lakes since the opening of the Welland Canal in 1921 (map).


    NAS Petromyzon marinus fact sheet

    WI Sea Grant

    Sea Lamprey in the Great Lakes (USGS)

    MN Sea Grant

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