The Cool Fish Unit Plan - Final

This topic submitted by Patrick Hardin ( at 4:58 PM on 6/7/04.

A sobering view of a Two-toed Sloth as it makes its way along utility lines on our way to Monteverde Preserve. This is what can happen to animals faced with disappearing habitat.

Tropical Field Courses -Western Program-Miami University

Fish Unit Plan


I plan to develop lessons and activities that will engage my students in learning about fish. This will fit in well with the study of various other living organisms. My class focuses on the value and interdepence of life and the comparison of the various groups of living things on the planet. In my classes I would like for my students identify the structure and function of the anatomical structures of fish. I also want them to be able to discuss specific adaptations of fish and how it makes them suitable for their role in the environment. I also plan to tie in ecological concepts in this unit including population dynamics with fish and how humans are impacting these population (overfishing, coral reef distruction, mangrove forest and estuary destruction/drainage).


Unit Objectives:

Š Identify the distinguishing characteristics of the three classes of fish.
Š Explain the importance of jaws and paired fins in the evolution of fish.
Š Describe the feeding behavior of lampreys and hagfishes.
Š Identify challenges faced by fish and their aquatic life.
Š Identify the distinct characteristics of cartilaginous fishes.
Š Describe how sharks detect prey
Š Describe reproduction in cartilaginous fishes, and contrast it with reproduction in jawless fishes.
Š List several of the characteristics of bony fishes.
Š Describe how populations are counted/estimated.
Š Calculate a population using the capture-recapture method..
Š Calculate percent error.
Š Trace the flow of blood through a fish heart
Š Explain how gill function in respiration
Š Describe the function of the swim bladder
Š Compare/Contrast the reproduction between all fish and specifically between bony fish and cartilaginous fishes.
Š List some of the health benefits in a diet and the economic values of fish.
Š List and describe some of the hazards of having fish in a diet.
Š Discuss the danger of over fishing.
Š Analyze the purpose of various fish adaptations and apply these adaptations to design and create a new species of fish
Š Contrast bioluminescence and chemiluminescence.
Š Identify structures on the fish and explain their purpose.

Some Applicable State Standards:

Š Gr. 9 #7 – Recognize that scientific knowledge and explanations have changed over time, almost always building on earlier knowledge.
Š Gr. 10 # 3 - Explain the characteristics of life as indicated by cellular processes including
a. homeostasis
b. energy transfers and transformation
c. disposal of wastes
d. synthesis of new molecules
Š Gr. 10 # 10 - Describe how cells and organisms acquire and release energy.
Š Gr. 10 #12Describe that biological classification represent how organisms related with species being the most fundamental unit of classification system. Relate how biologists arrange organisms into a hierarchy of groups and subgroups bases on similarities and differences that reflect their evolutionary relationship.
Š Gr. 10 #14 – Relate diversity and adaptation to structures and their functions in living things.
Š Gr. 10 #19 – Illustrate how uses of resources at local, state, regional, national, and global levels have affected the quality of life.
Š Gr. 10 #24 - Analyze how natural selection and other evolutionary mechanisms and their consequences provide a scientific explanation for the diversity for the diversity and unity of past life forms, as depicted in the fossil record, and new life forms.
Š Gr. 11 #12 – Explain ways in which humans have had a major effect on other species.
Š Gr. 11 #15 Conclude that Earth has finite resources and explain that humans deplete some resources faster than they can be renewed.
Š Gr. 11 #6 – Predict some possible impacts on an ecosystem with the introduction of non-native species.
Š Gr. 11 #11 – Investigate issues of environmental quality at local, regional, national and global levels such as population growth, resource use, population distribution, over-consumption, the capacity of technology to solve problems, poverty, the role of economics, politics, and different ways humans view the earth.

Unit Breakdown of Daily Activities

Day 1
ŠClasses of fish activity “Cool Fish Classes”
ŠMaterial required: Lab papers, Specimens Lamprey, Dogfish, Skate/Stingray, Perch (specimens can be purchased from Carolina)
ŠHW: Lab questions & Chapter 41 Section 1 Review
ŠPass out Designer Fish Activity
ŠShort Discussion about Fish Symbols and Symbolism

Day 2
ŠReview homework
ŠWork day for Designer fish
ŠMaterials required: Adaptation Cards, construction paper, markers, glue, scissors, etc.

Day 3
ŠSecond Workday for Designer fish

Day 4
Š Students present designer fish to class and hang them.
Š Materials Required: Fishing line to hang the fish in the classroom.

Day 5
Š Day 1 of mackerel lab external anatomy
Š Materials required: dissecting tools, mackerel for each pair of students (purchased from restaurant or large supermarket), binocular scope, slides

Day 6
Š Day 2 of mackerel lab internal anatomy
Š HW: complete lab questions

Day 7
Š Review lab
Š Draw & color internal and external structure of fish
Š HW: Read Chapter 41 section 3 in book and answer questions #1-6

Day 8
Š Review Homework
Š Read pages 399-381 in book and have class discussion about population dynamics and population size.
Š Capture-Recapture lab
Š HW: Complete lab questions.

Day 9
Š Review lab
Š Bioluminescence lab
Š Materials Required: sea fireflies, petri dishes, binocular scopes
Š HW: complete lab questions

Day 10
Š Review lab
Š Read short current events articles about the safety of eating fish (pollutants, mercury) and overfishing
Š Class discussion about the issues of fish in your diet and overfishing.

Day 11
Š Optional Fish Project or
Š Optional Denizens of the Deep Activity or
Š Review for fish test

Day 12
Š Discuss human impact of humans on fish. Review overfishing. Review biomes/ecosystems, Review Mangrove forest, Estuaries and coral reefs. Discuss human impacts on these biomes/ecosystems
Š Review for test

Day 13
Š Fish test


Cool Fish Classes

Identify the class of a fish based on common characteristics in each class.

Lamprey Dogfish Skate/Stingray Perch

1. Go to each of the three stations.
2. At each station, make a sketch of each of the fish.
3. Below each sketch, write down some of the characteristics of the fish. Try to focus on the characteristics that distinguish it from the others.
4. Now go to the last station identified by your teacher and make a sketch of it. Which of the other fish do you think that it is most closely related?
5. Now use your book to identify the class of each of the fish and fill in some of the rest of the characteristics that may not have jumped out at you.
6. What are the characteristics shared by all the classes of fish?

7. What are the characteristics used to distinguish between the classes?

8. What is the advantage of distinguishing the different classes of fish?

9. Read pages 799-801 in your book and complete questions 1-6.



Fish Report

The oceans, lakes and rivers are filled with an amazing diversity of fish species. Select one fish species that fascinates you and do some research on it. If you need help with ideas look through the fish books provided for you.

Š You will give a short 3-5 minute report about the fish that you researched. Your research should include:
o Describe physical characteristics
o Describe their habitat
o Unique adaptations/behavior
o Role in food chain
o Symbiotic relationships
o Important information & interesting facts
o Endangered/Impacted by humans?

Š A clear, professional presentation is important and will be part of your grade. Don’t read off a paper or note cards so make sure you know your material.

Š You will also need a creative, colorful, and eye-catching visual aid for your presentation.

A – Excellent – Project exceeds expectations/requirements that clearly shows a lot of time and effort was spent; high energy, quality presentation; clear, audible voice; Creative, useful visual aid; Complete and ready to go on day of presentation
B – Good – Project meets expectations/requirements and does a good job. Time and effort were spent on the project with a good result; Complete and ready to go on day of presentation
C – Fair – Project meets all expectations/requirements, satisfactory visual aid, satisfactory visual aid; all requirements met but does not show any extra time; Complete and ready to go on day of presentation
D – Poor – Does not meet all expectations or does a poor job on some of the requirements; not presented on time; may have unclear/incorrect facts; did a poor job on visual aid; poor presentation
F – missing some/all of requirements; not presented on time; presentation/work/visual aid below expectations/requirements


Designer Fish

Analyze the purpose of various fish adaptations and apply these adaptations to design and create a new species of fish.

1. Define adaptation
2. You and a partner are challenged to design and create a fish which has the special adaptations given to you by your teacher. The general categories of adaptations are as follows:
a. Protective coloration/patterns/camouflage
b. Body shape/form
c. Mouth type/feeding behavior
d. Reproduction behavior
In this challenge, your group will be forced to use your creativity to complete the task. You may make your designer fish three dimensional to hang from the ceiling or come up with your own creation out of materials available in the classroom and/or material brought from home. Your grade will be based on your group’s use of time, creativity, and the knowledge of your fish as you present it to the class. To complete your fish you will also be required to complete the following task in the activity.

3. Name your fish
a. Common name
b. Scientific name – using binomial nomenclature

4. Describe and draw the habitat of your fish. Your fish should be adapted to live in a specific habitat so use its adaptations to help you come up with your fish’s habitat.

5. List the unique adaptations of your fish and describe the advantage of each adaptation. How do the adaptations increase the likelihood for survival?

6. Using fish books and pictures, find real fish with the adaptations of your fish. You don’t need to find one fish with all four adaptations. You may find four different fish each having one of your adaptations. Don’t use the same fish given to you on the adaptation cards. List the adaptation and the common name of the real fish.

7. Analysis:
a. Which adaptation is most important for the survival of your fish species? Explain your reasoning.
b. What role do adaptations play in Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection? Be specific.

8. You will display and introduce your fish to the class and discuss its adaptations. Make sure you’re prepared and knowledgeable.



The Mackerel – A Typical Saltwater Bony Fish (by Terry Mondy)

Various kinds of mackerel are found in all oceans around the world. They are fast swimmers, live in schools, and are an important fish for both animals and humans. The type of fish in lab today is called Boston Mackerel, which is found in the Atlantic Ocean from Newfoundland to Cape Hatteras. Although saltwater bony fish can vary greatly in size and shape, feeding habits, etc., the Boston Mackerel is a typical saltwater bony fish that has various features common to many other ocean fish. This lab will acquaint you with some of these typical characteristics.
Fresh Mackerel Scissors Microscope Slide Binocular Scope
Paper towels Forceps Cover slip

External Observation
1. Lay your fish on some paper towels and then locate the following parts: Operculum (gill cover), First Dorsal Fin, Caudal Fin (tail), Pectoral Fin, Pelvic Fin, Lateral Line, and Anal Fin.
2. Fill in the diagram as you match the parts up with the actual fish.
3. Teeth – Feel the teeth. Describe your observation. ____________________________________________________
4. Based on the teeth, what do you think the mackarel eats (animals or plants)?
5. Does the mackarel have a tounge?_____
6. Nares – Look closely for two small nostrils above the mouth. How does the mackarel use them? _______________________
7. Eyes – Can you move the eyes? ____ Mackerels have very good eyesight. Based on how their eyes are situated on the head, do you think they have very good 3-D vision? ____ Of what advantage is it to have an eye on each side of the head?
8. Gills – Use the scissors to cut away the operculum (gill cover) and look at eht egill areches which support the pink-colored gill filaments. Use your scissors to remove a single gill and look at iti under the binocular scope. (You may have to rinse it off first at the sink.) Notice the fine white strainers on the inside. These are the gill rakers. Gill rakers aid in preventing small organisms and objects from passing out through the gill slits. Complete the gill diagram by drawing in the gill rakers.
Because mackerels are very active fish, the surface area of their gills may be 10 times their entire surface area.
9. Skin and Scales – The skin consists of an outer epidermis and an inner dermis. The outer epidermis is made up entirely of living cells that cover the scales. The epidermis also contains numerous glands that secrete mucus (slime), which protects mackerel from infections by bacteria and fungi. Remove several scales from the shoulder area of the fish. (Avoid scales from the lateral line area because they are atypical.) Rub the scales lightly between you thumb and index finger to remove loose epithelium. Rinse the scales and place them in water on a microscope slide so that the outside surface of the scale is facing you, and the posterior edge is to the right. Cover the scales with a coverslip, read the Instant Mackerel Fact below and look at the scales under the binocular scope.
All of the mackerel’s scales are formed is an autobiography of the fish’s growth because the scales form concentric rings as they grow, similar to the circular growth rings in trees. Although the mackerel may produce many growth rings (called circuli) in a year, the mackerel grows faster in the spring and summer than it does in the falle and winter. Consequently, a trained expert can detect the slight differenced in fall/winter scale growth from spring/summer scale growth. Thus, a mackerel’s age can actually be determined by looking at its scales.

10. What to look for: With the scale positioned on your slide as described above, the front of the fish would be to your left and the tail would be to your right. Now look at the right (tail) edge of the scale. You should see a group of small spines called ctenae. These five the fish a slightly rough texture whenyou feel it. Now look for the circuli (the growth rings) on the scale. Remember a mackerel can produce many circuli in a year. Now see if you can detect places where the circuli are particularly close together. This denotes one year’s growth from another and is called annulus. Draw a scale in the box and label the ctenae and circuli. How old do you think the fish is?

Internal Observation
11. Take your scissors and cut away a whole side of the fish forward of the anus. Be very careful not to cut too deeply or you may damage the internal organs.
12. Find the following structures in your fish and then label them in Figure 4: Heart, Liver, Spleen, Stomach, Intestine, Anus, Swim Bladder, Kidney, Gills, and Ovary (if your fish is a female).
A mackerel is about 5% more dense than the seawater it lives in, which means that if it stopped swimming, it would sink. This doesn’t happen, however, because it can adjust for this with the swim bladder. The swim bladder is filled with air (primarily oxygen and nitrogen) until the fish is “neutrally buoyant,” which allows it to float at any particular depth. As the mackerel goes deeper, more iar must be put into the swim bladder to compensate for the increasing water pressure. Conversely, as the mackerel ascends, it must release air from its swim bladder.

13. A mackerel is about 5% more dense than the surrounding seawater in which it lives. Freshwater fish (like goldfish) are similar in density to saltwater fish like mackerel. Therefore, because a freshwater fish lives in fresh water, its body is relatively more dense (>5%) than a saltwater fish is to salt water. Would you expect a freshwater fish’s swim bladder to be proportionately larger of smaller than a saltwater fish’s? Why would you say this?
14. A mackerel is a schooling fish, which means that it ilives in large groups. List several advantages of living in a school.
15. Fish muscles are much less complicated than the muscles of man other animals. Because fish have no legs, toes or fingers, there is no need for long tendons and tough connective tissue. Therefore, fish usually require less time to cooking than other meats and is less tough. Fish muscles are white because they lack myoglobin, the red pigment that transports oxygen. Consequently a fish’s muscles contain relatively small amounts of oxygen. A mackerel, for example, can swim rapidly in short spurts, but not for very long distances. Why do you suppose most fish tire rather quickly when they’re hooked on a line?

16. Obviously a mackerel’s nares (nostrils) are not connected ot any lungs. How do you suppose the mackerel “smells” its surroundings with its nares?
17. What is the purpose of the mackerel’s lateral line?
18. If you have ever seen a film on schooling fish, you would have seen how the school seems to move as one huge coordinated unit. How would the fish use their lateral line to do this?
19. You and your friend go deep-sea fishing. You catch a huge tuna and he gets a much smaller mackerel. Your friend whips out a magnifying glass, and then says, “Your fish may be bigger than mine, but my fish is two years older than yours.” How did your friend tell the age of the two fish?
20. Most fish including the mackerel secrete a coating of slime. What is the slime coat’s purpose?
Why do fish that are quick and/or prolonged swimmers, need much more gill surface area than fish that live relatively sedentary live on the bottom?



Marine Bioluminescence (by Terry Mondy)

Many marine organisms utilize bioluminescence (living light). Sea creatures the live at great depths are known to bioluminescence for a variety of reasons. The deep-sea angler fish has attached to its head a “fishing pole” with a lure that glows in the dark to attract its prey. Abyssal squid emit light and squirt clear ink that leaves an eerie green, luminescent shadow behind to confuse its enemies. The Atlantic flashlightfish has a greenish-white light organ under each eye which the fish can switch on and off at will. As with many bioluminescent ocean creatures, marine biologists are unsure of the fish’s use of these organs. Such is also the case with the organisms we will be studying today, Cypridina hilgendorfii, the sea firefly.

Forceps Pencil (or pen) Binocular Scope
Petri Dish Microscope Slide Sea Firefly Sample (12-15)
1. Get the items listed above. The Sea Firefly sample will be given to you by your teacher. (Be careful with this sample; it’s extremely expensive.)
2. The sea firefly is an arthropod that is in the Class Crustacea which includes lobsters, shrimp, and crabs. Native to the Sea of Japan, the sea firefly is a type of tiny crustacean known as an ostrocod. Ostrocods have a body theat is enclosed within hinged bivalve shells. They have two pairs of legs on the abdomen and they move via two pairs of antennae on their head. Place your petri dish under the binocular scope. Using forceps, carefully position one of the sea fireflies from your sample in the petri dish and observe it under the binocular scope. Draw what you see in the circle. Label the body and the bivalve shell from your drawing.
3. Return to your seat. When instructed to do so, take a pen or pencil and thoroughly pulverize your sample. Then, the teacher will turn the lights out. What do you see?
4. Your teacher will turn the lights on again. Now, add a few drops of water, turn and the lights will be turned out again. What do you see?
5. Vigorously stir your sample. What effect does stirring have?
6. Why do you think stirring has such an effect?
Chemiluminescence Demonstration
Your teacher has obtained several glow sticks. Some fisherman put these glow sticks on bobbers so they can watch them at night. They produce light as the result of a chemical reaction, but this type of reaction is completely different from a bioluminescent reaction. The glow sticks don’t use living things to glow. Watch the demonstrations and record your observations in the table.
7. Record the relative glow stick brightness of the beaker in the demonstration. Dim (+) ; Bright (++); Very Bright (+++)
8. What is the relationship between temperature and brightness with the glow sticks?
9. Temperature is a very significant factor in chemiluminescent light reaction production. Glow sticks produce light according to the following reaction:

Oxalate Ester + Hydrogen Peroxide ą New Compound + CO2 + Light

10. Temperature is not a very significant factor in bioluminescent reactions. The sea firefly has two specialized molecules whose interactions generate light. One chemical, luciferin, is acted upon by an enzyme, luciferase, which combines oxygen with the luciferin, causing light to be realesed. The energy to run this reaction is provided by the organic molecule ATP (adensosine triphosphate). A simplified reaction is written below.

Luciferin + Oxygen + ATP Luciferace ą Oxyluciferin + CO2 + ADP + Light

In one sense this reaction is dependent on the amount of oxygen present: the more oxygen the greater the reaction.
11. Why must you bend the glow stick several times before it starts glowing?
12. How could your teacher help to ensure the glow sticks that were used first period continued to glow to the last period?
13. How does a deep sea squid use bioluminescence?
14. Although marine biologists do not yet know this answer, suggest a reasonable explanation as to how the Atlantic flashlightfish might use its bioluminescence.
15. The fireflies we see on warm summer nights use a reaction similar to the sea firefly to produce light. Each of the 1100 species of fireflies can regulate the timing of flashes by injecting oxygen into its tail lantern at precise intervals. If oxygen is the key to making the tail lanterns flash, how would you explain the observation that when you squash a firefly on the sidewalk, the tail lantern glows continuously for some time?
16. Marine animals that live in the great depths fo the abyss often use bioluminescence where the water is just above freezing, 33-34 degrees Fahrenheit. Why does the temperature of the water have little effect on their light production?
17. How would a biologist use a bioluminescent organism to determine the relative dissolved oxygen content of several local water samples?



Denizens of the Deep (Terry Mondy)

The fish pictured here are just few a few of the strange creatures that have been discovered living at great depths if the ocean. Although the descriptions of the fish are given below, you may want to be creative and color the fish any way you like. Luminescent paint is also available to color parts of these fish the glow in the dark.

Crest fish – This fish grows up to six feet long. It is found far at sea from southern California and Florida southward. It has an ink sac like that of a squid or cuttlefish. Its body is brown and silvery with red fins.
Atlantic Flashlightfish – The small black fish lives along steep drop-offs in the West Indies. It grows to only about 5 inches long and has a greenish-white organ under each eye which can switch on and off.
Hatchetfish – This small, silver fish grows to three inches in length. It has many semicircular light organs on its body.
Deepsea Viperfish – This purplish black fish s quite tiny and ony grows to three inches in length. It has greenish light organs running along the lower length of its body.
Fangtooth – You will probably never see this fish while you are swimming because it lives at depths in excess of eighteen hundred feet off


Go Fish

Calculate an estimate of an unknown population and calculate percent error.
Analyze the advantages and disadvantages of this type of measure.
Pond (Container) 200 beads (Non-tagged)
white out

In your book, read pages 379-380 and answer the following questions.
Why are populations often difficult to count?
Describe some ways scientists use to determine population size.

1. You are a park ranger and have been asked to estimate the fish population in a large pond in your park. You will be using a method called the capture-recapture technique. What you need to do is “fish” out 30-40 beads from your pond.
2. Mark the beads with a dot of white out. This means that you tagged these fish. These tagged fish will be used to give you information later about the population of the pond.
3. Place the tagged beads back into the container. Shake the container so all the beads are mixed up.
4. Now randomly “fish” out about 25-30 fish out of your pond. Record the number of fish you caught and how many of the fish were tagged.
5. Calculate your estimate of the fish population using this equation:

# tagged in sample total 3 of tagged fish
------------------- ------------------------
total # of fish in sample = **total population in pond

6. On the board, record the information you got in the chart. Copy the information on the board from other groups.
7. Calculate the average estimate from all the groups.
8. Calculate your percent error. Use the following formula
l actual population - your estimate l
actual population x 100 = percent error
9. Calculate the percent error for the class.

1. How close was your estimate to the actual population?
2. Why was there a difference between your calculated estimate and the actual population?
3. Why would scientists use this method over counting the entire population?
4. What are the problems with this method?
5. What are the advantages of this method?
6. What could you do to make your estimate as accurate as possible?

Academic Content Standards. Columbus: Ohio Department of Education, 2003

Elson, Lawrence M. Zoology Coloring Book. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.,1982.

“Fashion A Fish.” Western Regional Environmental Education Council, 1987.

Helleman, Leah. Personal Interview, 13 May 2004.

Modern Biology Austin: Holt, Rhinehart and Winston, 1999.

Mondy, Terry. Making Your Biology/Life Science The Best It Can Be. Bureau of Education & Research. Bellevue 2001.

Sharov, Alexi. “Capture-recapture and Removal Methods.” <> 1/12/96.

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