Red porgy Pagrus pagrus, copyright Etrusko25.

Belongs within: Percomorpharia.
Contains: Nemipteridae, Lethrinidae, Sparus.

The Spariformes are a clade of marine fishes found in tropical and subtropical shallow coastal waters, united by specialisations of the suspensorium (Betancur-R. et al. 2013).

Gender’s just a state of gonads
Published 30 September 2010
Juvenile Pagrus auratus, photographed by Richard Ling.

This is the fish that goes by the name of ‘snapper’ in New Zealand, though that name is used for different kinds of fish elsewhere. In older references, you’ll find this species under the name of Chrysophrys auratus, but the genera Chrysophrys has since been synonymised with Pagrus (Paulin 1990). However, the molecular phylogenetic analysis of Chiba et al. (2009) failed to recover monophyly for Pagrus, so we may yet see Chrysophrys make a comeback some day.

Mature individuals of Pagrus major, a north-west Pacific species regarded by some authors as a synonym of P. auratus. These two are probably engaging in courtship behaviour. Photo from here.

As this young snapper gets older, its body will change in numerous ways. One is that the blue spots along its side will fade away and it’ll become more evenly pink. Its head will become deeper, and if it may develop a large supraorbital boss on its forehead. And one other significant change that it may go through is a reassignment of gender. Members of the marine fish family Sparidae, to which Pagrus belongs, show a bewildering range of sexual development, including forms which show protandrous hermaphroditism (they start life as males before developing into females), protogynous hermaphroditism (starting as females, developing into males) and gonochorism (completely separate males and females, as we have ourselves). Other species start life with the rudiments of both male and female gonads but have only one or the other develop to maturity, without any subsequent sex changes, while a single species has been recorded as possessing simultaneously functional gonads of both sexes (Buxton & Garratt 1990).

Different species of sparids feed on a variety of different diets, from predators of other fish such as the Dentex species to herbivores on algae such as Sarpa salpa. This variation in diet is reflected in a variety of dental morphologies. Predators such as Dentex possess pointed caniniform teeth while invertebrate feeders such as Pagrus auratus have a combination of pointed teeth in the front and round molariform teeth in the back. Algal feeders have flat-topped incisiform dentition, leading to occassional reports on fish with human teeth:

Teeth of sheepshead Archosargus probatocephalus, from Nathan Thurston.

In the past, dentition has been used as the basis for dividing sparids into a number of subfamilies, but both molecular (Chiba et al. 2009) and morphological (Day 2002) analyses indicate multiple polyphyletic origins of the various dentition types. Contrast that to the situation in the possibly related* family Lethrinidae where trophic type and phylogeny show a much closer fit.

*A relationship between the two has been suggested on morphological grounds; molecular analyses have so far not supported such a relationship, but nor have they produced any strong relationships for either family.

Systematics of Spariformes
<==Spariformes [Sparoidea]B-RB13
    |  i. s.: Centracanthidae [Maenidae]B-RB13
    |           |--Centracanthus cahuzaci Nolf 1988P93
    |           |--MaenaR13
    |           |--Smaris alcedoR13, PP89
    |           `--SpicaraLM13
    |                |--S. altaLM13
    |                `--S. maenaLM13
    |  `--LethrinidaeND13
         |  i. s.: ArchosargusK-M02
         |           |--A. probatocephalus (Walbaum 1792)K-M02
         |           `--A. unimaculatusF16
         |         Argyrops spinifer (Forsskål 1775)C01
         |         Rhabdosargus sarba (Forsskål 1775)C01 [=Sparus sarbaM58, Pagrus sarbaM58]
         |         Sarpa salpaB03
         |         Spondyliosoma cantharus (Linnaeus 1758)LD09
         |         Sparidentex hasta Valenciennes 1830HJ08
         |         Puntazzo puntazzoKA01
         |         Box vulgarisH04
         |         Cantharus vulgarisH04
         |         Chrysophrys bifasciataG75, D56
         |         DentexSC07
         |           |--D. dentexSC07
         |           |--D. fourmanoiri Akuzaki & Séret 1999C01
         |           |--D. pentagonalis Stinton 1957P93
         |           |--D. rivulatus Bennett 1835CA89
         |           `--D. tumifrons (Temminck & Schlegel 1842) [=Taius tumifrons; incl. D. spariformis (Ogilby 1910)]C01
         |         SparusL58
         |         PagellusH04
         |           |--P. bogaraveoBM03
         |           |--P. erythrinus Linnaeus 1758IM11
         |           `--P. mormyrusPP89
         |         AcanthopagrusA-SD03
         |           |--A. australis (Günther 1859)C01
         |           |--A. berda (Forsskål 1775)C01 [=Sparus berdaM58, Mylio berdaM58; incl. Chrysophrys hasta Macleay 1884M58]
         |           |--A. bifasciatusWC02
         |           |--A. latus (Houttuyn 1782) [=Sparus latus, Mylio latus]C01
         |           |--A. palmaris (Whitley 1935)C01
         |           `--A. schlegelii (Bleeker 1854) (see below for synonymy)LW10
         |         DiplodusBA05
         |           |--D. argenteusF15
         |           |--D. holbrookiF15
         |           |--D. puntazzoBA05
         |           |--D. sargusBA05
         |           |    |--D. s. sargusBA05
         |           |    |--D. s. cadenatiBA05
         |           |    |--D. s. capensisBA05
         |           |    `--D. s. lineatusBA05
         |           `--D. vulgarisJ03
         |         Boops boopsLM13
         |         EvynnisC01
         |           |--E. cardinalis (Lacepède 1802)C01
         |           `--E. japonica Tanaka 1931C01
         |         Sciaenurus bowerbanki Agassiz 1845P93
         |         PodocephalusP93
         |         GymnocrotaphusR13
         |         ScatharusR13
         |         CrenidensR13
         |    |--P. auratus (Bloch & Schneider 1801)C01 (see below for synonymy)
         |    |--P. bognorensis Stinton 1966P93
         |    `--P. pagrusND13
         `--+--Calamus calamusND13 [=Chrysophrys calamusF16]
            `--+--Stenotomus chrysops (Linné 1766)ND13, K-M02
               `--Lagodon rhomboides (Linné 1766)ND13, D83
Nomen nudum: Dentex xanthopterus Bleeker 1845CA89

Acanthopagrus schlegelii (Bleeker 1854) [incl. A. schlegelii czerskii, Sparus swinhonis czerskii, S. macrocephalus Basilewsky 1855]LW10

Pagrus auratus (Bloch & Schneider 1801)C01 [=Chrysophrys auratusC01; incl. C. major (Temminck & Schlegel 1843)C01, Pagrus majorB96, Sparus majorC01, Chrysophrys unicolorJB12]

*Type species of generic name indicated


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