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Department of Vertebrate Zoology

Division of Fishes

Mirapinnidae, the group of fishes
that contains tapetails and hairyfishes
Sandra Raredon
© Smithsonian Institution

An Ichthyological Family Reunion

Meet the Family Members

Solving the Puzzle

Read the Scientific ArticleBiology Letters, 5(2): 235-239

Two's Company - Hairy fish and Tapetails

Tapetail swimming in open ocean
Tapetails, like the one seen here in the waters off Mexico, have a long tail-like streamer extending behind their bodies.
Photo credit: Don Hughes
Tapetails, like the one seen here in the waters off Mexico, have a long tail-like streamer extending behind their bodies.

In 1956, the hairy fish and tapetails were described and placed in two distinct families, Mirapinnidae and Taeniophoridae, respectively. Their characterization was based on 120 tapetail specimens up to 45mm (1.7 inches) long that were compared with the only specimen of hairyfish ever collected. With the exception of one individual, all of the specimens were collected near the ocean surface – at most 200 meters (656 feet) deep.

Mirapinnidae
Mirapinnidae, the group of fishes that contains tapetails and hairyfishes, exhibit shared characteristics like an upturned mouth and an engorged abdomen.
Photo credit: Sandra Raredon
Mirapinnidae, the group of fishes that contains tapetails and hairyfishes, exhibit shared characteristics like an upturned mouth and an engorged abdomen.

Tapetails are characterized by a long extension that looks like a streamer trailing behind their body. Hairyfishes have "hair-like" papillae covering their entire body. These two types of fishes share some traits, including a relatively large mouth that points upward, large pelvic fins near their head, and no external lateral line or scales. The tapetails were eventually placed within the family Mirapinnidae with the hairyfishes. Interestingly, scientists noted that like the whalefishes, mirapinnids also have a sexual anomaly – every specimen examined was sexually immature.

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