Structure and function in the catfish



The catfish (Siluroidei) appear to have evolved from an ancestor which, in most respects other than the form of its teeth, resembled primitive Characinoidei. In the first part of this paper it is shown that most of the numerous and profound anatomical changes which have occurred in the course of their evolution from this ancestor can be related to one or other of three basic changes: depression of the body in adaptation to bottom-feeding habits, sensory modification in adaptation to nocturnal habits, and the evolution of defensive fin spines. Diplomystes is more primitive than other known catfish in the form of its maxilla and pectoral girdle, and in the posterior position of its dorsal fin.

The second part of the paper is concerned with some of the more specialized families of catfish (Mochokidae, Siluridae, Schilbeidae, Malapteruridae, Clariidae, Callichthyidae and Loricariidae). The specializations in each case are described, and related to the habits of the fish.