Interrelationships of the 11 gasterosteiform families (sticklebacks, pipefishes, and their relatives): a new perspective based on whole mitogenome sequences from 75 higher teleosts

Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2008 Jan;46(1):224-36. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2007.07.009. Epub 2007 Jul 18.


The fishes currently recognized as members of the order Gasterosteiformes (sticklebacks, pipefishes, and their relatives) number 278 species, classified into two suborders (Gasterosteoidei and Syngnathoidei), 11 families and 71 genera. Members of this group exhibit unique appearances, many of which are derived from armored bodies with bony plates in various forms. Although recent molecular phylogenetic studies have repeatedly questioned the monophyly of this order, none of the studies examined all of the representative families and the phylogenetic reality of the group has remained unclear. In this study, we examined whole mitochondrial genome (mitogenome) sequences from 13 gasterosteiform species representing all 11 families in the order, and subjected them to partitioned maximum likelihood and Bayesian analyses, with additional data from other percomorphs and outgroups (75 mitogenome sequences considered overall, including 10 newly determined). The resultant phylogenies indicated explicitly that previously recognized members of Gasterosteiformes had diverged basally within the Percomorpha into three different clades with the following subgroups: Syngnathoidei, Gasterosteoidei (minus Indostomidae), and Indostomidae. Monophyly of the order Gasterosteiformes and any combinations of the three subgroups were confidently rejected by statistical tests. Syngnathoidei (together with Dactylopteroidei) formed a monophyletic group, a sister-group relationship between Gasterosteoidei (minus Indostomidae) and Zoarcoidei was reconfirmed and Indostomidae was nested within the Synbranchiformes, rendering the latter group paraphyletic. Our study demonstrates a new perspective of gasterosteiform phylogeny, which will provide fundamental information for future studies of phylogeny, systematics, and evolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / chemistry
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genes, Mitochondrial
  • Genome
  • Phylogeny
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Smegmamorpha / anatomy & histology
  • Smegmamorpha / classification*
  • Smegmamorpha / genetics


  • DNA, Mitochondrial