Series Percomorpha, Order Perciformes: the perchlike fishes
The largest order in the Percomorpha, and for that matter of vertebrates, is the Perciformes, containing 160 families and over 10,000 species, more than a third of all fishes. Our discussion will focus on selected families within the 20 perciform suborders (family names appear in bold in the following accounts). As might be expected in such a diverse taxon, the classification of the perciforms is a subject of much debate. The success of perciforms is greatest but by no means limited to coral reef habitats,where six of the eight largest families abound (gobies,wrasses, seabasses, blennies, damselfishes, cardinalfishes).Two other large families, the cichlids and the croakers,reach their maximum diversity in tropical lakes and nearshore temperate marine habitats respectively. The fossil record for perciforms dates back to the Early Cenozoic, and recognizable members of most suborders had evolved by the Eocene, indicating very rapid evolution and diversification over a period of about 20 million years (Carroll1988).
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