The labyrinth fishes were first recognized as a natural assemblage by Cuvier and Valenciennes in 1831, but included the Channidae (snakeheads), in addition to the current family Anabantoidei. Bleeker (1859, 1879) added the luciocephalids (pikeheads) to this group. Jordan (1923) recognized six families, including Luciocephalus and Channidae. In 1963, Liem restricted the anabantoids to the families Anabantidae, Helostomatidae, Osphronemidae, and Belontiidae, thus removing Luciocephalus and the channids. In 1983 Lauder and Liem included Luciocephalus, in its own family Luciocephalidae, again in the anabantoids as the sister group to all remaining labyrinth fishes. Britz (1994, 1995), and Britz et al. (1995) demonstrated that there are no differences between Liem's families Belontiidae and Osphronemidae and that Luciocephalus is deeply nested within Liem's belontiids. The family name Os-phronemidae applies for this monophyletic assemblage. The suborder Anabantoidei is thus divided into three families, An-abantidae, Helostomatidae, and Osphronemidae. The latter family is the sister group of the former two, and it is further subdivided into the subfamilies Belontiinae (only Belontia, two spp.); Osphroneminae (only Osphronemus, four spp.); Lucio-cephalinae (Trichogaster, four spp.; Colisa, four spp.; Paras-phaerichthys, two spp.; Ctenops, one sp.; Sphaerichthys, four spp.; Luciocephalus, one sp., one undescribed sp.); and Macropodinae (Macropodus, five spp.; Pseudosphromenus, two spp.; Malpulutta, one sp.; Parosphromenus, 10 spp., some undescribed; Trichopsis, three spp.; Betta, 43 spp., some undescribed).
The closest relatives of anabantoids appear to be the Chan-nidae. Based on the shared presence of parasphenoid teeth, both seem to form a larger monophyletic group with the badids and the genera Nandus and Pristolepis. The only unambiguous fossil anabantoid is a complete articulated skeleton from the Miocene epoch of Sumatra, assigned to Osphronemus goramy.
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