Vertebrates subphylum vertebrata
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Vertebrates (subphylum vertebrata). Possess a backbone (aka vertebral column, spine) Vertebrae=Dorsal row of hollow skeletal elements (usually bone) Nerve cord=spinal cord, protected by vertebrae, (part of nervous system), ends in brain Bilateral symmetry, endoskeleton.

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Vertebrates subphylum vertebrata l.jpg
Vertebrates (subphylum vertebrata)

  • Possess a backbone (aka vertebral column, spine)

  • Vertebrae=Dorsal row of hollow skeletal elements (usually bone)

  • Nerve cord=spinal cord, protected by vertebrae, (part of nervous system), ends in brain

  • Bilateral symmetry, endoskeleton

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Fish Form & FunctionGoals for this lab

  • Learn about fish: Topics

    • Skin/scales

    • Coloration

    • Locomotion

    • Fins

    • Muscles

  • Discuss 3 classes of fish

  • Dissect different fish- up to 3 different forms

  • Write paper comparing different fish forms

    • Due next Monday/Tuesday

    • Details to follow

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Global Habitats




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Fish importance

  • Appeared > 500 mya

  • Comprise half of vertebrate species

  • Feed on all types of marine organisms

  • some organisms previously discussed use fish as their home (bacteria to crustaceans)

  • Some animals eat fish

  • Most economically important marine organism

  • Vital source of protein to millions of humans

  • Ground up for chicken feed, fertilizer, leather, glue, vitamins obtained from them

  • Some kept as pets

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Fish Morphology

  • Skin

    • Color

    • Bioluminescence

  • Swimming Locomotion

    • Fins

    • Muscles

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  • Organ of the body

  • Consists of connective tissue

  • Muscles pull against skin tissue & skeleton

    • Key component of the muscle-tendon-tail fin system

  • Layers

    • Epidermis

      • Typically 250 m thick  10-30 cell layers

      • Range 20 m – 3 mm

    • Dermis

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    Fish Skin

    • Function:

      • Hold fish together

      • Serves as barrier against abrasive agents

      • Osmoregulation (what does this mean?)

      • Permeable  respiratory function

      • Biomechanical properties in sharks

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    Fish Skin


    • Mucous formed in epidermis cells

      • Protect against infection

      • Constantly shed to remove bacteria and fungus

      • Ex. Clingfish lack scales, protect their bodies by a thick layer of mucous

  • Bone is also skin derivative

  • scales, most important

  • Fish scales l.jpg
    Fish Scales

    • First appear as dermal bone

    • Found in fossil of Cambrian period (570 mya)

    • Layered bone, solid armor-constrained movement

    • Evolved smaller and reduced into scales

    • 5 types of scales (examples with images to follow)

      • Placoid

      • Cosmoid

      • Ganoid

      • Cycloid

      • Ctenoid

    Fish scales placoid l.jpg
    Fish Scales: Placoid

    • Found in elasmobranchs (sharks & rays)

    • “teeth like”, same composition

    • As fish grows, do not increase in size, instead new scales are added

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    Fish Scales: Cosmoid

    • In the Sarcopterygii (fish with fleshy lobe fins), primitive fish

    • Less evolved than Elasmobranchs and Actinopterygii (fish with rayed fins)

    • Scales found in fossil record but not in any living fish,

      • Except in simplified version of coelocanth and lungfish

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    Fish Scales: Ganoid

    • In primitive Actinopterygii

    • Found in reedfish, polypterus, gar, bowfin, and sturgeons

    • Were thick heavy scales when first appeared

    • Rhomboid-shaped

    • Developed into teleost scales

    Fish scales teleost scales l.jpg

    Ctenoid scales

    Cycloid scales

    Fish Scales: Teleost scales

    • Two types:

      • Ctenoid-higher fish

      • Cycloid-soft-rayed, anchovies, sardine

    • Mineralized surface layer & inner collagenous layer

    • Scales surrounded by dermis, in dermal pockets

    • Grow from top, bottom, and insides; overlap lower part

    • Scales grow with fish

    • Characterized by concentric ridges (growth increments)

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    • Fish display a multitude of patterns involving

    • 2 or more colors,

    • in many tints and shades,

    • arranged in spots, stripes, patches, and blotches

    • 3 Types of coloration predominant in oceans

    • Silver – pelagic, upper zone

    • Red – deeper zone (~ 500 m)

    • Black or violet – deep sea

    • Countershaded near shore and colorful in coral reefs

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    • Chromatophores

    • Colored cells from which light is reflected off

    • Located in the skin (dermis), eyes

    • Various colors/hues-combination of different chromatophores

    • Functional Roles of Colors in Fishes-examples of each to follow

      • Social Roles

      • Advertisement

      • Mimicry

      • Hiding

      • Protection from sun (especially larvae)

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    Coloration: Social roles

    Cleaner Fish:distinctive markings recognized by larger fish

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    Bright, bold and showy males indicate:

    Reproductive availability, either permanently or seasonally, e.g. cichlids, wrasses, minnows, sunfish

    Unpalatable or venomous, e.g. lionfishes

    Mimicry – Disguise:

    Disguises: look like something in habitat, e.g. leaffish, sargasso fish

    Mimicry: mimic distasteful species

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    Coloration: Concealment

    General color resemblance – resemble background

    Variable color resemblance – change with background, e.g. flatfish

    Obliterative shading – countershading, dark above, light below (invisible fish)

    Disruptive coloration – disruptive contours that breakup outline; bold stripes, bars, false eye spots

    Coincident disruptive coloration – joining together of unrelated parts of the body to reduce recognition; e.g. sea dragon

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    • Most luminous fish found 300-1000 m depths, few shallow

    • 3 Types of light producing methods:

      • Self-luminous (on/off)

      • Symbiotic bacteria nurtured in special glands

      • Acquire from other bioluminescent organisms- diet contains light-emitting compounds

    • Function:

      • Concealment by counter-illumination - ventral placement matches background from above, against attack from below

      • Dorsal photophores safeguard against predators from above

      • Advertisement for courting, maintaining territory, to startle and confuse predators, and feeding

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    Fish Locomotion

    Means of Locomotion:

    • Simplest form: Passive drifting of larval fish

    • Some can:

      • Burrow

      • Walk, hop, or crawl

      • Glide

      • Fly

  • Most can:

    • Swim in a variety of ways

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    • Types of fins:

      • Paired fins: pectoral and pelvic

      • Median fins:dorsal, caudal, anal, & adipose


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    • Main functions:

      • Swimming – increase surface area w/o increasing mass

      • Stabilizers – yaw, stability-dorsal and anal fins

        • - brake, pitch, roll, reverse -pectoral/pelvic

        • thrust with caudal fin

  • Modifications in fins:

    • Defense – spines, enlarge fish

    • Locomotion – modified for crawling, flying, gliding

    • Hunting – lures, sensory organs

    • Respiratory organ – lungfish, supply oxygen to eggs

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    Soft rays vs. Spines

    • Spines:

      • Usually hard and pointed

      • Unsegmented

      • Unbranched

      • Solid

    • Soft rays:

      • Usually soft and not pointed

      • Segmented

      • Usually branched

      • Bilateral, w/left and right halves

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    Fish Muscles

    • Muscles provide power for swimming

      • Myomers=bands of muscle, run along sides of body, attached to backbone

    • Constitute up to 80% of the fish itself

    • Much hardly used except during emergencies

    • Don’t have to contend with same effect of gravity

    • Fish muscle arrangement not suitable on land

    • Cow: 30% muscle/wt

    • Tuna: 60% muscle/wt

    • Contraction causes oscillation of body and tail

    • Body bends as one side contracts b/c of an incompressible

    • notochord or vertebral column

    • Caused by bands of muscle = myomeres

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    Fish Muscles

    • Major fibers (see handout):

    • Red, pink, and white

    • Pink intermediate between red and white

    • Muscle types do not intermingle

    • Different motor systems used for different swimming conditions

      • Red – cruising

      • White – short duration, burst swimming

      • Pink – sustained swimming, used after red and before white

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    Fish Locomotion

    Swimming classified into 2 generic categories:

    Periodic (or steady or sustained)- e.g. running marathons, for covering large distance at constant speed

    Transient (or unsteady) – e.g. like running sprints, used for catching prey or avoiding predators

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    Isolate and move only fin(s)


    Rajiform - pectoral

    Labriform -pectoral oscillate

    Diodontiform - pectoral


    Gymnotiform -anal


    Tetraodontiform – anal+dorsal

    Balistiform – anal+dorsal

    Amiiform -dorsal

    Ostraciform-rigid body, caudal main propulsion

    Flex caudal portion, fast swimmers

    Thunniform-rigid body, caudal main propulsion



    Undulate the body: eels, elongate fish




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    Tuna: Ultimate Living Swimming Machine continuously – feeding, courtship, rest, reproduction

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    Tuna: Ultimate Living Swimming Machine adaptations

    • Big size-high performance engine

    • Streamlining-spindle shaped & rigid body

    • Small structures at various parts of the body to improve swimming efficiency and reduce drag, e.g.

      • Eyes flush with body – don’t protrude

      • Adipose eyelid - smooth, reduce drag

      • Depression grooves for dorsal, pelvic, & pectoral fins at high speed

      • Keeled peduncle - cutting through water

      • Finlets for cross-flow - delayed separation

    Tuna ultimate living swimming machine l.jpg
    Tuna: Ultimate Living Swimming Machine

    • Must swim to survive:

      • No gas bladder, rigid body, ram ventilation

    • High blood volume, large heart, maintain warm core (25oC)

    • School to utilize vortices generated by other fish (~like race car driver who “slipstreams” and then slingshots past leading car)

    • Adopt swim-glide for energy savings (like birds)

    • High narrow tails – propulsion with least effort, used to design efficient propulsion systems for ships

    Slipstream: The area of reduced pressure or forward suction produced by and immediately behind a fast-moving object as it moves through air or water.

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    Fish-mouth types (some)

    • Large mouth with teeth (e.g. barracuda)

    • Long snout/small mouth (e.g. butterfly fish)

    • Protrusible mouth (e.g. slipmouth)

    • Beak-like mouth (e.g. parrotfish)

    • Large mouth (e.g. herrings)

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    Three Classes:




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    Class Agnatha

    • Jawless fishes

    • Ex. Hagfish, lampreys

    • No paired fins

    • Gill holes, no slits or operculum

    • Large sucking mouth with teeth

    • Scavengers

    • As a defense mechanism, secrete slime then tie itself in knots to escape predators

    • Also tie in knots for pulling food off carcasses, and cleaning slime from body

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    Class Agnatha

    Hagfish’s mouth

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    Class Chondricthyes

    • Sharks and rays

    • Skeleton = cartilage, not bone

    • Paired fins-efficient swimming

    • Gill slits exposed,

    • no operculum

    • Large oil-filled liver

    • Heterocercal tail (upper longer than lower lobe)

    • Placoid scales-skin like sandpaper

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    Class Osteichthyes

    • Bony fish

    • Largest group of living vertebrates

    • Bones for skeletons

    • Gill covering (operculum)

    • Swim bladder (balloon-like)

    • Homocercal tails (even)

    • Cycloid & Ctenoid scales

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    Dissection Worksheet

    • Working in groups of 2 or 3 people,

      • dissect 1 fish following the worksheet and writing the answers to the questions in your notebook as you go.

    • Need to draw 3 external illustrations in your notebooks

      • 1 of the fish you are dissecting, before you dissect it

      • 2 others that have specialized mouths and caudal fins

        • label the type of mouth and caudal fin each has

      • Label the following structures on each illustration:

        • gill cover, pectoral fins, pelvic fins, dorsal fin,

        • anal fin, adipose fin (if present), lateral line

        • give the head length, total length, and the fork length (of the dissected one ONLY, see handout)

        • look at a scale under a microscope and draw it.

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    Dissection Worksheet continued

    • Cut through body cavity

      • Find the following

        • Heart

        • Liver

        • Stomach/intestines

        • Swim bladder (if applicable)

        • Spine

    • Cut cross section, 2/3 down the body

      • Red muscle

      • White muscle

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    Scales- use slides

    • Draw

      • Placoid

      • Ganoid

      • Cycloid

      • Ctenoid