Phylogenetic relationships among families of Atheriniformes have long been problematic. The affinities of one of the most enigmatic lineages, surf silversides (Notocheiridae), have proven particularly elusive due to this taxon’s unique morphology and rarity in museum collections. In this study, we use mitochondrial and nuclear sequence data to generate a phylogeny for seven of the eight families of Atheriniformes. Our results reveal that four families within Atheriniformes (Atherinopsidae, Notocheiridae, Atherinidae, Melanotaeniidae) are not monophyletic. Most notably, Notocheiridae is polyphyletic, with Notocheirus hubbsi nested within New World silversides (Atherinopsidae), while members of Iso are sister to all other Old World Atheriniforms. These data suggest that the unique morphology of Notocheirus and Iso is a result of adaptive convergent evolution to the high-energy surf habitat where these species live.
Bloom, D., Unmack, P., Gosztonyi, A., Piller, K., & Lovejoy, N. (2012). It’s a family matter: Molecular phylogenetics of Atheriniformes and the polyphyly of the surf silversides (Family: Notocheiridae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 62, 1025-1030. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2011.12.006