Afternoon Ecology: Week 4, Fish: Just keep swimming, from bay to ocean

Earlier this summer, Dory found her parents and herself. This week at MSI, the kids in Afternoon Ecology found a new passion for slimy, swimming and single-gilled animals otherwise known as fish. The term “fish” is often misused, as we learned last week "Starfish" are not fish at all and correctly referenced as "Sea Stars". Fish come in a great variety of shapes and sizes but all have a number of things in common, such as lifelong gills and fin-shaped limbs. Today, we explored a variety of bony-fish, or fish that have a skeleton made of bony tissues.

In class, the kids sat down and discussed exactly what makes a fish, a fish! They added key body parts to a picture on the whiteboard, drawing the fins, gills, and scales. We also discussed the importance of these anatomical features to understand why a fish must have these adaptations. Gills are used for breathing, while the dorsal and pectoral fins provide balance. Next, the kids were able to observe real-life examples of fish from the San Francisco Bay. We had 4 examples that they had to identify my making observations of the key fish features and comparing those to an identification chart. Among the bay dwelling fish identified were the yellowfin goby and starry flounder. The starry flounder is a flat fish that lives on the floor of the bay, camouflaging itself within the sand. A fun fact about flat fish is that they are born upright, but as they develop their eyes and fins shift to either the right or left side of their bodies. The final bay fish activity was to draw their favorite! The starry flounder was a huge contender and definitely made a splash in many journals!

Swimming on out to the ocean, we observed 4 different fish that are fortunate enough to call the ocean home. These fish are often found in tide pools and the intertidal zone, which requires many special adaptations that differ from those of the bay species. The intertidal zone is a beautiful, but extremely rough place to live! These organisms must be able to withstand a tide that changes 4 times each day, living in submerged conditions as well as dry conditions, and crashing waves. The kids observed the kelp fish, northern cling fish, monkey-faced eel, and the tide pool sculpin. The northern cling fish does exactly as the name describes, clings! The rough waves on the California coast are constantly hitting the rocks where this fish lives, so they must hold on tight in order to not get swept away into the open ocean! Much like our friends Nemo and Dory, the cling fish does not prefer the vast open water.

Join us next week as we begin exploring the possibilities that are cartilaginous fish!

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