Holiday special: animal families part 2

In part two of our animal families holiday special, we are reminded that families—especially taxonomic families—come in all shapes and sizes. Fitting right between order and genus in zoology, the family is a special designation that ends with “–idae.” Family groups often earn nicknames like the “weasel family” for mustelidae or members of the alcidae being part of the “puffin family.” Check out these relatives and see last week’s blog post for part 1.

starry flounder

Family: Pleuronectidae

Species: Pacific halibut, Atlantic halibut, starry flounder, English flounder, butter sole, rock sole, C-O sole

Characteristics: This family’s name comes from the Greek roots pleura, meaning “side,” and nekton, meaning “swimmer”—these are side swimmers, or flatfish. This is actually just one of the 11 families of flatfish. Flatfish are known for having two eyes on one side of their head, and fish that belong to this family generally have both eyes on the right side of their head.

Odd animal out: Even though starry flounders belong to this right-eyed family of flatfish, individuals of this species may have both eyes on the right side of their head, or both eyes on the left side.

spotted seahorse

Family: Sygnathidae

Species: spotted seahorse, alligator pipefish, blue striped pipefish, bay pipefish

Characteristics: This family’s name comes from the Greek roots syn, meaning “with” or “together,” and gnathos, meaning “jaw.” They all have a jaw in the shape of a tube, used for eating tiny invertebrates.

Odd animal out: The striped shrimpfish, also known as the razorfish, looks like it fits right in with this family, but it belongs to a different family (Centriscidae) within the same order (Syngnathiformes). Trumpetfish, which the Aquarium sometimes displays, are also in a separate family (Aulostomidae) within this order (Syngnathiformes).

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