Vertebral development is a dynamic and complicated process, and defects can be caused by a variety of influences. Spinal curvature with no known cause (idiopathic scoliosis) affects 2-3% of the human population. In order to understand the etiology and pathogenesis of complex human skeletal defects such as idiopathic scoliosis, multiple models must be used to study all of the factors affecting vertebral stability and deformity. Although fish and humans have many of the same types of offenses to vertebral integrity, they have been overlooked as a resource for study. The most common morphological deformity reported for fish are those that occur during the development of the spinal system, and as with humans, curvature is a common morphological consequence. Here we review spinal curvature in teleosts and suggest that they are an unexploited resource for understanding the basic elements of vertebral stability, deformity, development and genetics. Fish can be a value to vertebral research because they are tractable, have a diversity of non-induced vertebral deformities, and substantial genomic resources. Current animal models lack non-induced deformities and the experimental tractability necessary for genetic studies. The fact that fish are free of an appendicular skeleton should allow for analysis of basic spinal integrity without the biomechanical constraints observed in quadrupedal and bipedal models. To illustrate the point we review human idiopathic scoliosis and the potential contribution teleosts can make for the identification of causes, risk factors, and treatment options.