NANFA-- Are lampreys fishes?

Christopher Scharpf (
Wed, 12 Jan 2000 09:58:01 -0400

I believe Dave was being a little facetious, but he raises a valid point.

Lampreys are not TRUE fishes.Sticklers for such distinctions would rather they
be called "fishlike vertebrates." Lacking paired fins, bones, and jaws, but
possessing a crude cartilaginous skeleton and a primitive spinelike structure
called a notochord, lampreys are the most primitive freshwater vertebrates in
existence. But since they have gills, live in water, and are often collected
with other fishes, lampreys are called fishes in the broadest sense and fall
under the watch of ichthyologists.

In addition, there are some ichthyology textbooks and surveys (e.g., Jordan and
Evermann, 1896) that include lancelets, which are not even vertebrates (but they
are chordates).

You must also remember that the term "fish" in itself has no phylogenetic
meaning. Lampreys are as different from sharks and true fishes as they are from
humans. Heck, even lungfishes are more closely related to mammals than they are
to other fishes.

So while a lamprey may not be a "true" fish, fish people get to study them for
one very important reason:

They are too cool to give to anyone else!

Chris Scharpf
Subject: Re: NANFA-- OT: African Butterfly Fish
Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2000 03:37:34 EST

In a message dated 1/11/00 11:12:49 PM Eastern Standard Time, writes:

<< Glad to hear the lampreys are doing well... although does that mean that
we're going to have to change the name of the organization to NANFFLVA
(North American Native Fishes and Fish-Like Vertebrate Association)?
I always used to think that lampreys were technically fish (albeit primitive
as hell ). So what disqualifies this from this category? Is it their lack of
actual backbone vertebrae substituted by cartilage? Isn't their brain
unproteced by an actual skull? And/or (less likely to me) is it because they
are jawless?

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