Difference Between Bony Fish and Cartilaginous Fish

Billions of years of evolution has led to the emergence of two types of fish that look superficially the same. However, the most obvious disparity between the two types of fish is the composition of their skeleton. As the name suggests, “bony fish” have a skeleton composed of only bones while a cartilaginous fish has a skeleton made entirely of cartilage. Read on to discover more differences between the two.

Difference Between Cartilaginous Fish and Bony Fish

Cartilaginous Fish

Bony Fish

Biological Classification

Cartilaginous fishes fall under the class Chondrichthyes

All bony fish fall under the superclass Osteichthyes


Primarily composed of cartilage

Primarily composed of bone





Heterocercal in nature

Homocercal in nature


Members primarily inhabit marine ecosystems. However, some exceptions are present

Members inhabit both marine and freshwater ecosystems

Mode of Fertilization

Internal (exceptions are present)


Swim Bladder

Absent. Buoyancy is maintained with oil stored in livers.

Present (except for some bony fishes that dwell in the deep).


Great white sharks, whale sharks and every other species of sharks

Sunfish, Tuna, Herring, Trouts etc

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Frequently Asked Questions on Bony and Cartilaginous Fish


What is the difference between bony and cartilaginous fish?

Cartilaginous fishes have skeletons composed mostly of cartilage while bony fish have a skeleton composed mostly of bone. Furthermore, these two types of fish fall under different taxonomic groups – Cartilaginous fish are grouped under the class Chondrichthyes and all bony fish fall under the superclass Osteichthyes.

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