Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 28, Issue 1–4, pp 33–75 | Cite as

Alternative life-history styles of cartilaginous fishes in time and space

  • Leonard J. V. Compagno


Cartilaginous fishes, the sharks, rays and chimaeras (class Chondrichthyes), are a very old and successful group of jawed fishes that currently contains between 900 and 1100 known living species. Chondrichthyians show a high morphological diversity during most of their evolutionary career from the Paleozoic to the present day. They are relatively large predators which have remained a major, competitive element of marine ecosystems despite the varied rivalry of numerous other marine vertebrate groups over at least 400 million years. Although restricted in their ecological roles by morphology, reproduction and other factors, the living cartilaginous fishes are highly diverse and show numerous alternative life-history styles which are multiple answers to exploiting available niches permitted by chondrichthyian limitations. Chondrichthyians living and fossil can be divided into at least eighteen ecomorphotypes, of which the littoral ecomorphotype is perhaps the most primitive and can serve as an evolutionary origin for numerous specialist ecomorphotypes with benthic, high-speed, superpredatory, deep-slope and oceanic components. Reproductive modes in cartilaginous fishes are of six types, ranging from primitive extended oviparity through retained oviparity and yolk-sac viviparity (previously ovoviviparity) to three derived forms of viviparity. Reproductive modes are not strongly correlated with ecomorphotypes and with the phylogeny of living elasmobranchs. The success and importance of cartilaginous fishes is largely underrated by marine biologists and by the public, and requires new and ‘heretical’ emphasis to overcome the present inadequacies of chondrichthyian research and the problems of overexploitation that cartilaginous fishes face.

Key words

Sharks Rays Chimaeras Chondrichthyes Evolution Success Diversity Ecology Ecomorphotypes Reproductive modes Conservation 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References cited

  1. Bakker, R. 1987. The dinosaur heresies. A revolutionary view of dinosaurs. Longman Scientific & Technical, Essex. 481 pp.Google Scholar
  2. Balon, E.K. 1975. Reproductive guilds of fishes: a proposal and definition. J. Fish. Res. Board Can. 32: 821–864.Google Scholar
  3. Balon, E.K., S.S. Crawford & A. Lelek. 1986. Fish communities of the upper Danube River (Germany, Austria) prior to the new Rhein-Main-Donau connection. Env. Biol. Fish. 15: 243–271.Google Scholar
  4. Bauchot, R., R. Platel & J.-M. Ridet. 1976. Brain-body weight relationships in Selachii. Copeia 1976: 305–310.Google Scholar
  5. Bone, Q. 1988. Muscles and locomotion. pp. 99–141.In: T.J. Shuttleworth (ed.) Physiology of Elasmobranch Fishes, Springer-Verlag, Berlin.Google Scholar
  6. Breder, C.M. & D.E. Rosen. 1966. Modes of reproduction in fishes. Natural History Press, Garden City. 941 pp.Google Scholar
  7. Cappetta, H. 1987. Chondrichthyes II. Mesozoic and Cenozoic Elasmobranchii. pp. 1–193.In: H.-P. Schultze (ed.) Handbook of Paleoichthyology, vol. 3B, Gustav Fischer Verlag, Stuttgart.Google Scholar
  8. Carroll, R.L. 1988. Vertebrate paleontology and evolution. W.H. Freeman, New York. 698 pp.Google Scholar
  9. Cohen, D.M. 1970. How many recent fishes are there? Proc. Calif. Acad. Sci. ser. 4, 38: 341–346.Google Scholar
  10. Compagno, L.J.V. 1973. Interrelationships of living elasmobranchs.In: P.H. Greenwood, R.S. Miles & C. Patterson (ed.) Interrelationships of Fishes, Zool. J. Linn. Soc., Supp. 1,53:15–61.Google Scholar
  11. Compagno, L.J.V. 1977. Phyletic relationships of living sharks and rays. Amer. Zool. 17: 303–322.Google Scholar
  12. Compagno, L.J.V. 1981. Legend versus reality: thejaws image and shark diversity. Oceanus 24: 5–16.Google Scholar
  13. Compagno, L.J.V. 1984. FAO species catalogue. Vol. 4. Sharks of the World. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of shark species known to date. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No. 125, 4: 1–655.Google Scholar
  14. Compagno, L.J.V. 1988. Sharks of the order Carcharhiniformes. Princeton University Press, Princeton. 572 pp.Google Scholar
  15. Compagno, L.J.V. 1990a. Shark exploitation and conservation. NOAA, NMFS Tech. Bull. (in press).Google Scholar
  16. Compagno, L.J.V. 1990b. Interrelationships of the megamouth shark. NOAA, NMFS Tech. Bull. (in press).Google Scholar
  17. Compagno, L.J.V. & T.R. Roberts. 1982. Freshwater stingrays (Dasyatidae) of Southeast Asia and New Guinea, with description of a new species ofHimantura and reports of unidentified species. Env. Biol. Fish. 7: 321–339.Google Scholar
  18. Compagno, L.J.V. & T.R. Roberts. 1984. Marine and freshwater stingrays (Dasyatidae) of West Africa, with description of a new species. Proc. Calif. Acad. Sci. ser. 4, 43: 283–300.Google Scholar
  19. Denison, R. 1978. Placodermi. pp. 1–128.In: H.-P. Schultze (ed.) Handbook of Palaeoichthyology, vol. 2, Gustav Fischer Verlag, Stuttgart.Google Scholar
  20. Denison, R. 1979. Acanthodii. pp. 1–162.In: H.-P. Schultze (ed.) Handbook of Palaeoichthylogy, vol. 5, Gustav Fisher Verlag, Stuttgart.Google Scholar
  21. Dick, J.R.F. 1978. On the Carboniferous sharkTristychius arcuatus Agassiz from Scotland. Trans. Roy. Soc. Edinburgh 70: 63–109.Google Scholar
  22. Duellman, W.E. 1982. Reptilia. pp. 955–966.In: S. Parker (ed.) Sypnosis and Classification of Living Organisms, Mc Graw Hill, New York.Google Scholar
  23. Evans, P.G.H. 1987. The natural history of whales and dolphins. Croom Helm, London. 343 pp.Google Scholar
  24. Fedducia, A. 1980. The age of birds. Harvard University Press, Cambridge. 196 pp.Google Scholar
  25. Gruber, S.H. & A.A. Myrberg, Jr. 1977. Approaches to the study of the behavior of sharks. Amer. Zool. 17: 471–486.Google Scholar
  26. Harrison, R. & M.M. Bryden (ed.) 1988. Whales, dolphins and porpoises. International Publishing Corp., Hong Kong. 240 pp.Google Scholar
  27. Hodgson E.S. 1987. The shark's senses. pp. 76–83.In: J.D. Stevens (ed.) Sharks, Golden Press, Drumoyne.Google Scholar
  28. Hodgson, E.S. & R.F. Mathewson (ed.). 1979. Sensory biology of sharks, skates and rays. Office of Naval Research, Arlington. 666 pp.Google Scholar
  29. Howard, R. & A. Moore. 1984. A complete checklist of the birds of the world. MaCMillan, London. 732 pp.Google Scholar
  30. Johnsgard, P.A. 1978. Ducks, geese, and swans of the world, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln. 404 pp.Google Scholar
  31. Leatherwood, S. & R.R. Reeves. 1983. The Sierra Club handbook of whales and dolphins. Sierra Club Books, San Francisco. 302 pp.Google Scholar
  32. Lund, R. 1986. The diversity and relationships of the Holocephali. Proc. 2nd. Int. Conf. Indo-Pacific Fishes: 97–106.Google Scholar
  33. McDonald, D. (ed.) 1984. The encyclopaedia of mammals. G. Allen & Unwin, London. 895 pp.Google Scholar
  34. Montgomery, J.C. 1988. Sensory physiology. pp. 79–98.In: T.J. Shuttleworth (ed.) Physiology of Elasmobranch Fishes, Springer-Verlag, Berlin.Google Scholar
  35. Moss, S.A. 1984. Sharks. An introduction for the amateur naturalist. Prentice-Hall, Ingelwood Cliffs. 246 pp.Google Scholar
  36. Moy-Thomas, J.A. & R.S. Miles. 1971. Palaeozoic fishes. 2nd ed. W.B. Saunders, Philadelphia. 259 pp.Google Scholar
  37. Myberg, A.A. Jr. 1987. Understanding shark behavior. pp. 41–83.In: S. Cook (ed.) Sharks, An inquiry into Biology, Behavior, Fisheries, and Use, Oregon State University, Eugene.Google Scholar
  38. Myberg, A.A. Jr. 1987. Shark behaviour. pp. 84–93.In: J.D. Stevens (ed.) Sharks, Golden Press, Drummoyne.Google Scholar
  39. Nelson, J.S. 1984. Fishes of the world. 2nd ed. Wiley-Interscience, New York. 523 pp.Google Scholar
  40. Northcutt, R.G (ed.). 1977a. Recent advances in the biology of sharks. Amer. Zool. 17: 287–515.Google Scholar
  41. Northcutt, R.G. 1977b. Elasmobranch central nervous system organization and its possible evolutionary significance. Amer. Zool. 17: 411–429.Google Scholar
  42. Northcutt, R.G. 1978. Brain organization in the cartilaginous fishes. pp. 117–193.In: E.S. Hodgson & R.F. Mathewson (ed.) Sensory Biology of Sharks, Skates and Rays, Office of Naval Research, Arlington.Google Scholar
  43. Randall, B.M., R.M. Randall & L.J.V. Compagno. 1988. Injuries to jackass penguins (Spheniscus demersus): evidence for shark involvement. J. Zool., Lond. 214: 589–599.Google Scholar
  44. Randall, J.E. 1986. Sharks of Arabia. Immel, London. 148 pp.Google Scholar
  45. Rosa, R.S. 1985. A systematic revision of the South American freshwater stingrays (Chondrichthyes: Potamotrygonidae). Ph.D. Thesis, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg. 523 pp.Google Scholar
  46. Simpson, G.G. 1976. Penguins. Past and present, here and there. Yale University Press, New Haven. 150 pp.Google Scholar
  47. Stevens, J.D. (ed.). 1987. Sharks. Golden Press, Drummoyne. 240 pp.Google Scholar
  48. Thompson, K.S. & D.E. Simanek. 1977. Body form and locomotion in sharks. Amer. Zool. 17: 343–354.Google Scholar
  49. Tuck, G. & H. Heinzel. 1979. A field guide to seabirds of southern Africa and the world. Collins, London. 292 pp.Google Scholar
  50. Watson, L. 1981. Sea guide to whales of the world. E.P. Dutton, New York. 302 pp.Google Scholar
  51. White, E.G. 1937. Interrelationships of the elasmobranchs with a key to the order Galea. Bull. Amer. Mus. Nat. Hist. 74: 25–138.Google Scholar
  52. Wourms, J.P. 1977. Reproduction and development in chondrichthyian fishes. Amer. Zool. 17: 379–410.Google Scholar
  53. Zangerl, R. 1973. Interrelationships of early chondrichthyians.In: P.H. Greenwood, R.S. Miles & C. Patterson (ed.) Interrelationships of Fishes, Supp. 1, Zool. J. Linn. Soc. Lond. 53:1–14.Google Scholar
  54. Zangerl, R. 1981. Chondrichthyes I. Paleozoic Elasmobranchii. pp. 1–115.In: H.-P. Schultze (ed.) Handbook of Paleoichthyology, vol. 3A, Gustav Fischer Verlag, Stuttgart.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leonard J. V. Compagno
    • 1
  1. 1.Shark Research CenterJ.L.B. Smith Institute of IchthyologyGrahamstownSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations