Monday, 15 August 2011

Activity: Baking/The History of...Fish.

Sourced from the Wikipedia page 'Fish'...because I live dangerously...

A fish is any gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate (or craniate) animal that lacks limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups. Because the term is defined negatively, and excludes the tetrapods (i.e., the amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) which descend from within the same ancestry, it is paraphyletic. The traditional term pisces (also ichthyes) is considered a typological, but not a phylogenetic classification.
Most fish are "cold-blooded", or ectothermic, allowing their body temperatures to vary as ambient temperatures change. Fish are abundant in most bodies of water. They can be found in nearly all aquatic environments, from high mountain streams (e.g., char and gudgeon) to the abyssal and even hadal depths of the deepest oceans (e.g., gulpers and anglerfish). At 32,000 species, fish exhibit greater species diversity than any other class of vertebrates.
Fish, especially as food, are an important resource worldwide. Commercial and subsistence fishers hunt fish in wild fisheries (see fishing) or farm them in ponds or in cages in the ocean (see aquaculture). They are also caught by recreational fishers, kept as pets, raised by fishkeepers, and exhibited in public aquaria. Fish have had a role in culture through the ages, serving as deities, religious symbols, and as the subjects of art, books and movies.

Fish are a paraphyletic group: that is, any clade containing all fish also contains the tetrapods, which are not fish. For this reason, groups such as the "Class Pisces" seen in older reference works are no longer used in formal classifications.
Fish are classified into the following major groups:
  • Class Myxini (hagfish)
  • Class Pteraspidomorphi † (early jawless fish)
  • Class Thelodonti †
  • Class Anaspida †
  • Class Petromyzontida or Hyperoartia
    • Petromyzontidae (lampreys)
  • Class Conodonta (conodonts) †
  • Class Cephalaspidomorphi † (early jawless fish)
    • (unranked) Galeaspida †
    • (unranked) Pituriaspida †
    • (unranked) Osteostraci †
  • Infraphylum Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates)
    • Class Placodermi † (armoured fish)
    • Class Chondrichthyes (cartilaginous fish)
    • Class Acanthodii † (spiny sharks)
    • Superclass Osteichthyes (bony fish)
      • Class Actinopterygii (ray-finned fish)
        • Subclass Chondrostei
          • Order Acipenseriformes (sturgeons and paddlefishes)
          • Order Polypteriformes (reedfishes and bichirs).
        • Subclass Neopterygii
          • Infraclass Holostei (gars and bowfins)
          • Infraclass Teleostei (many orders of common fish)
      • Class Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish)
        • Subclass Coelacanthimorpha (coelacanths)
        • Subclass Dipnoi (lungfish)
† - indicates extinct taxon
Some palaeontologists contend that because Conodonta are chordates, they are primitive fish. For a fuller treatment of this taxonomy, see the vertebrate article.
The position of hagfish in the phylum chordata is not settled. Phylogenetic research in 1998 and 1999 supported the idea that the hagfish and the lampreys form a natural group, the Cyclostomata, that is a sister group of the Gnathostomata.
The various fish groups account for more than half of vertebrate species. There are almost 28,000 known extant species, of which almost 27,000 are bony fish, with 970 sharks, rays, and chimeras and about 108 hagfish and lampreys. A third of these species fall within the nine largest families; from largest to smallest, these families are Cyprinidae, Gobiidae, Cichlidae, Characidae, Loricariidae, Balitoridae, Serranidae, Labridae, and Scorpaenidae. About 64 families are monotypic, containing only one species. The final total of extant species may grow to exceed 32,500.


Although most fish are exclusively aquatic and ectothermic, there are exceptions to both cases.
Fish from multiple groups can live out of the water for extended time periods. Amphibious fish such as the mudskipper can live and move about on land for up to several days.
Certain species of fish maintain elevated body temperatures. Endothermic teleosts (bony fish) are all in the suborder Scombroidei and include the billfishes, tunas, and one species of "primitive" mackerel (Gasterochisma melampus). All sharks in the family Lamnidae – shortfin mako, long fin mako, white, porbeagle, and salmon shark – are endothermic, and evidence suggests the trait exists in family Alopiidae (thresher sharks). The degree of endothermy varies from the billfish, which warm only their eyes and brain, to bluefin tuna and porbeagle sharks who maintain body temperatures elevated in excess of 20 °C above ambient water temperatures. See also gigantothermy. Endothermy, though metabolically costly, is thought to provide advantages such as increased muscle strength, higher rates of central nervous system processing, and higher rates of digestion.


The 2006 IUCN Red List names 1,173 fish species that are threatened with extinction. Included are species such as Atlantic cod, Devil's Hole pupfish, coelacanths, and great white sharks. Because fish live underwater they are more difficult to study than terrestrial animals and plants, and information about fish populations is often lacking. However, freshwater fish seem particularly threatened because they often live in relatively small water bodies. For example, the Devil's Hole pupfish occupies only a single 3 by 6 metres (10 by 20 ft) pool.


Overfishing is a major threat to edible fish such as cod and tuna. Overfishing eventually causes population (known as stock) collapse because the survivors cannot produce enough young to replace those removed. Such commercial extinction does not mean that the species is extinct, merely that it can no longer sustain a fishery.
One well-studied example of fishery collapse is the Pacific sardine Sadinops sagax caerulues fishery off the California coast. From a 1937 peak of 790,000 long tons (800,000 t) the catch steadily declined to only 24,000 long tons (24,000 t) in 1968, after which the fishery was no longer economically viable.
The main tension between fisheries science and the fishing industry is that the two groups have different views on the resiliency of fisheries to intensive fishing. In places such as Scotland, Newfoundland, and Alaska the fishing industry is a major employer, so governments are predisposed to support it. On the other hand, scientists and conservationists push for stringent protection, warning that many stocks could be wiped out within fifty years.

Habitat destruction

A key stress on both freshwater and marine ecosystems is habitat degradation including water pollution, the building of dams, removal of water for use by humans, and the introduction of exotic species. An example of a fish that has become endangered because of habitat change is the pallid sturgeon, a North American freshwater fish that lives in rivers damaged by human activity.

Exotic species

Introduction of non-native species has occurred in many habitats. One of the best studied examples is the introduction of Nile perch into Lake Victoria in the 1960s. Nile perch gradually exterminated the lake's 500 endemic cichlid species. Some of them survive now in captive breeding programmes, but others are probably extinct. Carp, snakeheads, tilapia, European perch, brown trout, rainbow trout, and sea lampreys are other examples of fish that have caused problems by being introduced into alien environments.

Importance to humans


In the Book of Jonah a "great fish" swallowed Jonah the Prophet. Legends of half-human, half-fish mermaids have featured in stories like those of Hans Christian Andersen and movies like Splash (See Merman, Mermaid).
Among the deities said to take the form of a fish are Ika-Roa of the Polynesians, Dagon of various ancient Semitic peoples, the shark-gods of Hawaiʻi and Matsya of the Dravidas of India. The astroloical symbol Pisces is based on a constellation of the same name, but there is also a second fish constellation in the night sky, Piscis Austrinus.
Fish have been used figuratively in many different ways, for example the ichthys used by early Christians to identify themselves, through to the fish as a symbol of fertility among Bengalis.
Fish feature prominently in art and literature, in movies such as Finding Nemo and books such as The Old Man and the Sea. Large fish, particularly sharks, have frequently been the subject of horror movies and thrillers, most notably the novel Jaws, which spawned a series of films of the same name that in turn inspired similar films or parodies such as Shark Tale, Snakehead Terror, and Piranha.

In the semiotic of Ashtamangala (buddhist symbolism) the golden fish (Sanskrit: Matsya), represents the state of fearless suspension in samsara, perceived as the harmless ocean, referred to as 'buddha-eyes' or 'rigpa-sight'. The fish symbolizes the auspiciousness of all living beings in a state of fearlessness without danger of drowning in the Samsaric Ocean of Suffering, and migrating from teaching to teaching freely and spontaneously just as fish swim.

They have religious significance in Hindu, Jain and Buddhist traditions but also in Christianity who is first signified by the sign of the fish, and especially referring to feeding the multitude in the desert. In the dhamma of Buddha the fish symbolize happiness as they have complete freedom of movement in the water. They represent fertility and abundance. Often drawn in the form of carp which are regarded in the Orient as sacred on account of their elegant beauty, size and life-span.
The name of the Canadian city of Coquitlam, British Columbia is derived from Kwikwetlem, which is said to be derived from a Coast Salish term meaning "little red fish".

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