Systematics of fish larvae from the tropical Indo-Pacific and temperate Australia

Systematics is the study of identification, classification and nomenclature of organisms.

Tom Trnski facing the media

Stuart Humphreys © Australian Museum

Research Scientist: Dr Tom Trnski

Fish larvae

Most bony fishes hatch from small eggs. The term "larva" is used to describe fish after they hatch from an egg until they become a juvenile. Fish larvae typically look very different to the adults, and are initially poorly developed and weak swimmers. However as they develop, they progressively gain their fish-like characters, including fins and scales, their sensory systems develop, and swimming ability improves.

Systematics of fish larvae

When fish larvae hatch they lack fins, scales and other characters that distinguish fish, and they typically look different to the adults they will develop into. The lack of these adult characters means other characters are required to identify fish larvae. These characters include the number of muscle bands (myomeres), ornamentation of head spines that are often unique to the larval stage, pigmentation and body proportions.

Systematics is the study of identification, classification and nomenclature of organisms. The identification of fish larvae provides information on development of this life history stage of fishes. The results of this research have been published in a number of books and research papers. See the List of publications for further details. The identity of fish larvae can then be used to pursue other research including ecology, population dynamics, behaviour and phylogeny.


Mark McGrouther , Collection Manager, Ichthyology
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Tags Fishes, Ichthyology, Systematics, fish larvae, Indo-Pacific, temperate, Australia, tropical,