Dorsal fin with 75 to 100 spines, about twice as long as the anal fin; pectoral fins small or rudimentary, with 7-17 rays; pelvic fins rudimentary (one spine and one soft ray) in most species or absent, along with pelvic girdle, in species of Apodichthys and some specimens of Pholis fasciata; vertebrae 80-107, centra asymmetrical; ribs absent; distance from snout to anal origin usually more than distance from anal origin to caudal fin; lateral line short or absent.
Gunnels are small littoral fishes that, like some pricklebacks, are often found under rocks or in tide pools at low tide.
Three genera with about 15 species (Mecklenburg, 2003).
Subfamily Pholinae. Body with pigmented patterns (bars, blotches, or spots). Most are North Pacific, a few North Atlantic.
One genus, Pholis (synonym Allopholis), with about 11 species.
Subfamily Apodichthyinae. Body color relatively uniform (e.g., dark brown, green, or red). North Pacific.
Two genera, Apodichthys with three species off the North American coast and the monotypic Rhodymenichthys from Japan.
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