Fish Facts

Over the past few weeks Reef Brief has featured some of the amazing marine life found in and around this area, such as dolphins. However, it is the 400 species of fish found in the coral reef environment with their great diversity and fascinating adaptations that should garner the attention. This week Reef Brief will answer some of the most commonly asked questions about fish and their physical adaptations. How do fish breathe?

Unlike dolphins that have lungs that store air from the surface, fish have gills. Gills are a series of membranes located on each side of the fish that function as the respiratory organs. With the use of gills, fish must use a special system called counter current exchange to acquire oxygen. Blood in the arteries of fish is responsible for picking up oxygen from the surrounding water. In the hearts of fish, blood flows in one direction only, and in order to get the most amount of oxygen, the water must flow past gills in the opposite direction. When fish are taken out of water, they suffocate; not because they can't breathe the oxygen from the air, but because the gills responsible for gas exchange collapse. How do schools of fish move in sync with one another?

Fish all have what are called neuromasts, a group of sensitive hair cells that come into contact with the water. These hairs are very receptive to stimulation and when they are lined up in a "lateral line" they become an amazing tool providing fish with information about the surrounding environment. Schools of fish, all equally equipped with these special sensory hairs, pick up the same information about the environment and act on it in the same way, thus they are able to swim with such synchronicity. Can fish hear?

Reef Brief is a weekly column published in the San Pedro Sun
The aforementioned adaptation of the lateral line acts as a cross between hearing and touch, but fish also have ears. Sound vibrations from the water are sent through the body of the fish to its ears that are located inside the fish. Sensory hairs are found in the ear to detect sounds. With the use of both ears and a lateral line, fish are equipped with a keen sense of hearing.

Can fish smell and taste?

Most fish have two nostrils located on the top of their head allowing them to smell. Of the fish family, sharks, rays, and eels, have the most sensitive sense of smell. Fish also have a great sense of taste using the taste buds located throughout their mouth. How is the eyesight of fish?

Fish have excellent eyesight. In fact, many scientists agree that the vision of fish is equivalent with our own vision, with some fish even seeing in color. Fish have special adaptations allowing them to see underwater and at great depths. This ability helps fish find shelter, food, and mate, while avoiding predators.

To survive in any environment, organisms depend on the ability to successfully adapt. Of the organisms found in the sea, fish have demonstrated this ability better than most.

If you have any questions about marine life or the coastal environment as a whole that you would like featured in Reef Brief, please call us at 2833.

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