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Encyclopedia > Fishes
, Clupea harengus, the most abundant fish species in the world, Photo by
Atlantic herring, Clupea harengus, the most abundant fish species in the world, Photo by Uwe Kils
This page is about the animals which live in water. For other meanings, please see Fish (disambiguation).

A fish is a poikilothermic (cold-blooded) * water-dwelling vertebrate with gills. There are over 27,000 species of fish, making them the most diverse group of vertebrates. Taxonomically, fish are a paraphyletic group whose exact relationships are much debated; a common division is into the jawless fishes (class Agnatha, 75 species including lampreys and hagfish), the cartilaginous fishes (class Chondrichthyes, 800 species including sharks and rays), with the remainder classed as bony fishes (class Osteichthyes).

Fishes come in different sizes, from the 14-meter (45 ft) whale shark to a 7-mm (just over 1/4 of an inch) long stout infantfish. Many types of aquatic animals named "fish", such as jellyfish and cuttlefish, are not true fish.

* Certain species of tuna maintain an elevated core temperature, so they are not, strictly speaking, poikilothermic. The Great White Shark is the only known truly endothermic (warm-blooded) fish.


Note on usage: "fish" vs. "fishes"

"Fishes" is the proper English plural form of "fish" that biologists use when speaking about two or more fish species, as in "There are over 25,000 fishes in the world" (meaning that there are over 25,000 fish species in the world). When speaking of two or more individual fish organisms, then the word "fish" is used, as in "There are several million fish in the species Gadus morhua" (meaning that G. morhua comprises several million individuals). To see both in action, consider the statement "There are twelve fish in this aquarium, representing five fishes" (meaning that the aquarium contains twelve individuals, some of the same species and some of different species, for a total of five species).

Fish ecology

Fishes can be found in almost all large bodies of water in either salt and fresh water, at depths ranging from just below the surface to several thousand meters. However, hyper-saline lakes like the Great Salt Lake do not support fish. Some species of fish have been specially bred to be kept and displayed in an aquarium.

Fish are an important source of food. Other water-dwelling animals such as mollusks and crustaceans (commonly called shellfish) are often considered as fish when used as food. Catching fish for the purpose of food or sport is known as fishing. The annual yield from all fisheries worldwide is about 100 million tonnes.

Overfishing is a threat to many species of fish. On May 15, 2003, the journal Nature reported that all large oceanic fish species worldwide had been so systematically overcaught that fewer than 10% of 1950 levels remained. [1] (http://www.globeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20030514.wfish1405/BNStory/National/) Particularly imperilled were sharks, Atlantic cod, Bluefin tuna, and Pacific sardines. The authors recommended immediate, drastic cutbacks in fish catches and reservation of ocean habitats worldwide.

Centropristis striata
Centropristis striata

See also

External links

Wikimedia Commons has multimedia related to:
  • A World of Fish (http://www.aworldoffish.com) Species information and fish care
  • Fish database (http://www.fishbase.org) (FishBase)
  • Join Ray Mullet in the Fish Olympics (http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/nof/fish/)!
  • Project for children - build a fish mobile with a behavior (http://marine.rutgers.edu/~kils/BASS/mobile/INDEX.HTM)
  • Reelinthefish.net | Interview with Dr James K. Oliver, Reefbase Scientist (http://reelinthefish.net/interviews/jameskoliver.html)
  • Fish-Hooked Forum (http://fish-hooked.com)

  Results from FactBites:
Fish Brewing Co., Olympia, WA (194 words)
Fish Brewing Company is a small, locally owned craft brewery producing truly authentic British-style organic ales and German style lagers for beer lovers.
Fish Brewing provides three bottled organic ales made with choice ingredients grown without the use of the harmful fertilizers and pesticides that damage our precious streams and ground water.
The results are truly delicious ales, brewed in a way that’s consistent with Fish Brewing’s desire to promote organic agriculture with all its benefits for salmon habitat and the environment in whole.
Fish Printouts - EnchantedLearning.com (801 words)
The Coelacanth (pronounced SEE-la-canth) is a primitive lobe-finned fish that was thought to have been extinct for millions of years, but a living Coelacanth was caught in the Indian Ocean off the coast of South Africa in 1938.
Piranhas are meat-eating, freshwater fish that are native to eastern South America.
Salmon are fish that live in the sea and spawn in fresh water.
  More results at FactBites »



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