Black Carp: Biological Synopsis and Risk Assessment of an Introduced Fish

Chapter 3: Taxonomy, Synonymy, and Common Names


Largely following Nelson (1994), black carp is classified as follows:

• Class: Actinopterygii
• Subclass: Neopterygii
• Division: Teleostei
• Superorder: Ostariophysi
• Order: Cypriniformes
• Family: Cyprinidae
• Subfamily: Cyprininae (placed in Leuciscinae by some authors)
• Genus: Mylopharyngodon Peters 1873
• Species: Mylopharyngodon piceus (Richardson 1846)

The black carp was originally described by Richardson (1846:298) as Leuciscus piceus, in a publication appearing in Report XV of the Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, 1845, Cambridge, London, 1846, p. 298. The paper presumably was presented or read before the association in 1845 but was not officially in print until 1846. Whitehead (1972) republished the 1846 report, including Richardson’s original description of the new fish. In the original description, the fish is referenced as being from the Canton (Guangzhou) area in China. Eschmeyer (1998), citing Whitehead (1970:210, Pl. 18b), remarked that its description was based solely on an illustration by John Reeves. Richardson clearly stated that the set of color drawings by Reeves was the foundation for his 1846 report on new fishes. He added that the drawings were based on fishes present in the markets of Canton. Without having the actual specimens for many of the species described, including presumably black carp, a series of Richardson’s descriptions were based entirely on external anatomy of the fish as observed in Reeve’s drawings. Eschmeyer further noted that no types are known. Creating minor confusion, Bíró (1999), citing Berg (1949), commented that the “holotype” for black carp is represented by a specimen from Songhua, China, assigned the catalog number ZISP 5900. Bíró added an editorial footnote in which he indicated that this specimen is only a morphologically “typical specimen” and that Richardson’s original type specimen(s) are probably lost. The footnote further stated that only a specimen from the lower West (Xijiang) River (type locality) could be designated in the future as a neotype. In addition, Bíró (1999) suggested the possibility of at least two subspecies based on differences in the pharyngeal teeth patterns in different regions (i.e., predominance of one versus two rows of pharyngeal teeth).