Adult form of a giant anguilliform leptocephalus Thalassenchelys coheni Castle and Raju 1975 is Congriscus megastomus (Günther 1877)
The superorder Elopomorpha, a grouping which includes all teleost fishes that possess a specialized leptocephalous larva [true eels (Anguilliformes), gulpers and bobtail snipe eels (Saccopharyngiformes), bonefishes, spiny eels, and halosaurs (Albuliformes, including Notacanthiformes), ladyfishes and tarpons (Elopiformes, including Megalopiformes)] comprises >800 species for which phylogenetic relationships are poorly understood. In the present study, we analyzed mitochondrial DNA sequences in segments of the 12S and 16S rRNA genes in 33 elopomorph taxa encompassing all of the previously proposed orders, and 9 of the 15 currently recognized families of the Anguilliformes, as well as outgroup representatives from the superorders Osteoglossomorpha (nine species) and Clupeomorpha (three species), to develop phylogenetic hypotheses based on distance and parsimony methods. Both methods failed to support the monophyly of the Elopomorpha, casting doubt on the validity of the leptocephalus as an elopomorph synapomorphy. The orders Elopiformes, Albuliformes, and Anguilliformes, however, were resolved as monophyletic assemblages. Parsimony analysis supported the separation of the Anguilliformes into two groups (primitive and advanced) based on the presence of divided versus fused frontal bones. In addition, the molecular data indicated a close affinity of the anguilliform Thalassenchelys coheni (incertae sedis), known only from the leptocephalus, with the family Serrivomeridae. The implications of these data as regards the evolution of the elopomorph assemblage are discussed.