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Canada's species


Pumpkinseed, Lepomis gibbosus. Image: Dwane Raver, USFWSFish rule the oceans and freshwater of the world. They are the most common group of vertebrates (creatures with backbones), and were also the first vertebrates. Most species only live in fresh or salt water, but some that live in the ocean come into freshwater to spawn, and a few can live in either fresh or salt water.

Fish first arose about 540 million years ago as something similar to today's jawless lampreys and since then have diversified to a remarkable extent. Most of the early types of fish are now either extinct or very rare. The only extremely primitive fish types in Canada are the lampreys. Some of the fish that lack true bones, such as lampreys and sturgeons, live in Canada, but the vast majority in Canada and around the world are the bony fishes.

There are almost 20 000 species of fish around the world. Canada has fewer than 200 species of fish in its freshwaters. This is largely due to the glaciers, which scour the country clean of fish wherever they advance during ice ages. Between glaciations, fish slowly find their way back, but the numbers are always lower than they would be without the devastating work of the glaciers.


Page 2 Herring-like fishes (order Clupeiformes)

Page 3 Minnow-like fishes (order Cypriniformes)

Page 4 Perch-like fishes (order Perciformes)

Page 5 Other fishes