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Characiformes: Teeth usually well developed (most are carnivores); adipose fin usually present; body almost always scaled (scales very rarely absent in South American species, e.g., the tetra Gymnocharacinus bergi of Argentina is naked, lacks an adipose fin, and is the most southerly known characiform); probably ctenoid or ctenoidlike scales in some; pelvic fin present (with 5-12 rays); anal fin short to moderately long (fewer than 45 rays); lateral line often decurved, sometimes incomplete; upper jaw usually not truly protractile; pharyngeal teeth usually present, but not usually specialized as in cypriniforms (anostomids have highly modified pharyngeal teeth); barbels absent; branchiostegal rays 3-5; usually 3 postcleithra; first hypural separated from the centrum by a gap in adults (most other primitive teleosts lack such a gap); usually 19 principal caudal fin rays.

Families in this order: