Biodiv Sci ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (8): 21471.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2021471

• Original Papers: Animal Diversity • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Geographical distribution of freshwater and estuarial fish archaeological remains since the Neolithic Age in China and its biogeographical implications

Weinuo Liang, Liang Hu*()   

  1. School of Geography and Planning, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou 510006
  • Received:2021-11-21 Accepted:2022-03-17 Online:2022-08-20 Published:2022-08-31
  • Contact: Liang Hu


Aims: Freshwater and estuarial fish remains recovered from archaeological sites are critical data for exploring the historical distribution of extant fish species. In this paper, records of freshwater and estuarial fish archaeological remains in China from the Neolithic Age to the Ming Dynasty will be studied to reveal the historical distribution of relevant extant species.

Methods: We conducted a taxon-distribution matrix based on freshwater and estuarial fish archaeological remains from 101 sites (or site clusters) in China. The historical distributions of the identified fish species were reconstructed and compared with their extant distributions. The reasons for the changes in the distribution of species historically compared to present distributions were discussed.

Results: A total of 72 taxa of freshwater and estuarial fish remains from 8 orders and 12 families were recorded, of which Cypriniformes was the largest order with 43 taxa. Forty-two taxa had been identified as extant species, of which Cyprinus carpio and Mylopharyngodon piceus were the most frequently recorded species (both were recorded in 46 sites). Of these 101 studied sites, 68 sites belong to the Neolithic Age and a total of 60 fish taxa were recorded. The Yangtze River Basin had the largest number of identified taxa (55), followed by the Huai River Basin (24), and the Amur River Basin (22). In contrast, there was only one taxon recorded in the South Rivers Basin, the Southwest Rivers Basin and the Taiwan Island Rivers Basin. The following eight species had been recorded at least once outside their extant distribution range: Ctenopharyngodon idella, Mylopharyngodon piceus, Megalobrama amblycephala, Carassioides acuminatus, Cyprinus longzhouensis, Aristichthys nobilis, Monopterus albus, and Lateolabrax japonicas. Except for the first two species, the remaining species had been recorded at least once farther north of their extant distribution range.

Conclusions: The geographical patterns of freshwater and estuarial fish fauna since the Neolithic Age in China were largely consistent with the current patterns. However, a few species displayed a historical distribution pattern wider than that of their present distribution range. This may be because the paleo-climate where these species unearthed was warmer than today, or because the subsequent changes in climate or water system have narrowed the distribution range of those fish species.

Key words: freshwater fishes, animal remains, geographical distribution, Cypriniformes, historical biogeography