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Fish Are Fintastic!
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"These wonders actually possess attributes that would make us superpowers—they can change color, sex, produce light and electricity, regenerate injured fins, prevent themselves from sinking, and some can even walk on land." - Rutgers University Press {1}

Earth is home to an estimated 33,000 known species of fishes{2}, which is more than all the other kinds of vertebrate animals combined {3}. New species are continually being discovered {4}. All fishes have wonderful qualities, many have astonishing characteristics.

Fishes range in size from the less-than-one-half-inch minnow {5} to the whale shark, who can grow to nearly 60 feet and weigh over 25 tons, eating mainly plankton {6}.

Sailfish, the fastest fish, can move at 68 mph (faster than a cheetah, the fastest land animal){7}. Flying fish have been known to glide as far as 660 feet and reach heights of up to 19 feet.{8}

Hanako (“flower maid”) was a koi carp who died in 1977 at the reported age of 226 years. She is believed to have been the oldest known fish.{9} In 1953, a lake sturgeon caught in Canada was estimated to be 154 years old.{10} Other fishes with century-plus lifespans include orange roughy, pacific perch, and warty oreo.{11} Goldie, the oldest goldfish, is claimed to have reached 45 years of age.{12}

Color vision is well developed in many species of fish.{13} Some can see ultraviolet light{14}, and one species has recently been found able to see infrared light{15}. Some fish are actually able to generate their own light{16}. Most can see both to the left and right simultaneously.{17} The so-called “four-eyed fish” has two eyes but can see above and below the water surface at the same time. {18}

The absurd myth that fishes have a 3-second-memory has been disproved.{19} Salmon, for example, remember the way home years later from thousands of miles away.{20}

Fishes have been shown to also be able to track time of day, even without being able to see the sky.{21}

Culture, the ability to relay accumulated knowledge, including from one generation to another, is recognized in fishes.{22} In addition to learning by observing others, stickleback fish selectively decide when and whom to imitate in order to make the most successful choices – an optimal form of learning said to otherwise be known to occur only in humans. {23} Fishes are also capable of recognizing hierarchy and determining the status of others through sequential logic. {24} This ability (“transitive inference”) was until recently thought only possible with humans.{25}

Various sounds, signals, and other means of communication are employed by fishes.{26} Some indicate their emotion by changing color.{27} The California singing fish hums to attract a mate.{28} Groupers can alarm skin divers with their booming sounds.{29} Using electrical signals, elephant fish may have the fastest known form of communication, with a response time of about 12 milliseconds. (Proportionately, they have a larger brain than do humans.) {30}

Sociability/Tool Use
Social cooperation is commonplace in fishes.{31} Those traveling in schools, for example, exhibit amazing synchrony.{32} Different species also cooperate, often for mutual benefit. Working as a team, groupers use body gestures to indicate to eels or wrasses where prey is hiding. This “referential gesturing” is an ability attributed to few other species.{33} Various wrasses have also been filmed using rocks to try to break open shells. {34} (Scientists consider tool use to be a very sophisticated behavior.){35}

“Not Just a Pretty Face”
In an article entitled “Not Just a Pretty Face,” Culum Brown, a renown fish expert and behavioral ecologist at Macquarie University, explains that fish learn quickly, have “fantastic” spatial memory and impressive long-term memories. They have sophisticated social structures, recognize individuals, keep track of complex social relationships and even gather information by eavesdropping on others, he states. Brown further notes that fish use tools, build homes and nests for rearing young, and even tend well-kept gardens! {36}
"Each fish is an individual, just like people, you have these aggressive individuals, shy retiring individuals, you have bold individuals." - Dr Culum Brown {37}

"Our fellow citizens with scales and fins." – Sylvia Earle, former head of NOAA {38}

{1} Rutgers University Press (promotion for the book “Do Fish Sleep?”), 2011.,117.aspx

{2} Fish Base, version April, 2013.

{3} Raven & Johnson, “Biology,” 2001, p. 952.

“Mammals have only about a sixth as many species, and birds a third.”
Braithwaite, Victoria, “do fish feel pain?”, 2010, p. 136/137.

{4} “Eschmeyer (pers. comm.29)…stated that over 400 species [of fishes]are currently published every year (Eschmeyer and Frong 2009) and that the total number of species would be close to 32,000. He estimated that there were probably around 40,000 species in total.”
Chapman, Arthur D., “Numbers of Living Species in Australia and the World,” Australian Biodiversity Information Services, September 2009, p. 17.

{5} “The title of world's smallest fish is a matter of controversy. In 2006, the prestigious scientific journal of the UK's Royal Society published an article touting the discovery of a lilliputian fish from the genus Paedocypris, which dwells in Sumatran swamps and is only 7.8 milimeters in length, or about a third of an inch. Soon after that, other scientists came forward to cite an even smaller fish that already had been described in the scientific literature: an Australian specimen of the stout infantfish (Schlindleria brevipinguis), which is 7.0 millimeters long. But the tiniest of fish turns out to be a male anglerfish (Photocorynus spiniceps), discovered in the Philippines, that measures just 6.2 centimeters (about a quarter of an inch) from snout to tail.”
“Little known Facts about Fish,” Animal Planet, undated.

See also: “Photo in the News: Big Flap Over World's Smallest Fish,” National Geographic, January 30, 2006.
And (see caption):

{6} Birch Aquarium, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, undated

{7} “Sailfish,” National Geographic, undated.

See also: “Fast Food,” Daily Mail, June 20, 2011.

And: Kennedy, Jennifer, “Fastest Fish,” Marine Life (, undated.

{8} “Random Facts” (citing: “Fish,” Eyewitness Books, 2005).

See also: “Flying Fish,” National Geographic, undated.

{9} Barton, Laura, “Will You Still Feed Me...?”, The Guardian, April 11, 2007.

See also: Koshihara, Komei, “The Story of Hanako,” NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corp.), 1966.

{10} “Lake Sturgeon Fact Sheet, “ New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, undated.

And see: Enger, Leif, “The Sturgeon Stalker,” Minnesota Public Radio, May 23, 2000.

{11} Timiras, Paola S., “Physiological Basis of Aging and Geriatrics,” 2007.

And see: Pfeiffer, Eric, “Man Catches 200-Year-Old, 40-Pound Fish,” Yahoo (The Slideshow), July 2, 2013.

{12} Barton, Laura, “Will You Still Feed Me...?”, The Guardian, April 11, 2007.

Regarding fish senses, see also: “Senses of Fish,” Beauty in Glass, Thinkquest, undated.

{13} Hubel, David H., “Eye, Brain, and Vision,” 1995, chapter 8, p. 2.
and see:

{14} Jacobs, Gerald H., “Ultraviolet Vision in Vertebrates,” American Zoologist, Vol. 32, No. 4, 1992.

{15} “Infrared Vision in a Cichlid Fish,“ Science Daily, October 29, 2012.

{16} Ramel, Gordon, “Bioluminescence in Fish,” Earthlife Web, undated.

{17} “Fish Sensory Systems,” Sea Grant Minnesota, The University of Minnesota, June 27, 2012.

{18} Viegas, Jennifer, “How 'Four-Eyed' Fish Sees Above and Below Water,” NBC News, , July 20, 2011.

{19} “Fish Chews Up Bad Memory Theory,” BBC News, February 5, 2008.

Adams, Stephen, “Three-Second Fish Memory ‘a Myth,’” The Telegraph, January 15, 2010.

“Three-Second Memory Myth,” Daily Mail, January 7, 2009.

Matthews, Robert, “Fast-Learning Fish Have Memories that Put Their Owners to Shame,” The Telegraph, October 3, 2004.

“Why Fish are Smarter than You Think,” University of St. Andrews press release, September 1, 2003.,42700,en.php

Brown, Culum, “Not Just a Pretty Face,” New Scientist, June 12, 2004.

Reebs, Stéphan G., “Long-Term Memory in Fishes,” Université de Moncton, Canada, 2008.

{20} Drake, Nadia, “Magnetic Memories May Guide Salmon,” Wired, February 7, 2013.

“Fish Sensory Systems,” Sea Grant Minnesota, The University of Minnesota, June 27, 2012.

Scientist, Grrl, “Salmon, Scent and Going Home Again,” Scientopia, , January 17, 2011.

{21} Ramel, Gordon, “Learning and Intelligence in Fish,” EarthLife, undated.

{22} Brown, Culum, Laland, Kevin and Krause, Jens, “Fish Cognition and Behavior,” 2011,

Brown, Culum, “Fish Schools – Teaching the Little Tackers How to Survive,” Catalyst (interview by Mark Horstman), December 4, 2007.

{23} “'Genius' claim for sticklebacks,’” BBC News, June 17, 2009.

“Common Fish Species Has 'Human' Ability To Learn,” Science Daily, June 17, 2009.

{24} Shwartz, Mark, “Study: Cichlids Can Determine Their Social Rank by Observation,” Stanford Report, January 25, 2007.

Reebs, Stéphan G., “Social Intelligence in Fishes,” Université de Moncton, Canada, 2010, p.1-2.

{25} Braithwaite, Victoria, “do fish feel pain?”, 2010, p. 93.

Balasubramanian, D., “Transitive Inference by Fish,” The Hindu, February 8, 2007.

White, Shannon L. and Gowan, Charles, “Brook Trout Use Individual Recognition and Transitive Inference to Determine Social Rank,” Behavioral Ecology, December 12, 2010.

{26} Goodman, Susan, “Fish Say the Darndest Things,” National Wildlife Federation, February 1, 1996.

Melina, Remy, “Piranha’s Bark as Bad as Their Bite,” Live Science, October 13, 2011.

{27} Weis, Judith S., “Do Fish Sleep?”, 2011, p. 44.

Ames, Jim and Schroder, Steve, “Chum Salmon Colors,” (adapted from their article "Color Variations in Spawning Pacific Salmon" Breakthrough Magazine, 1995), Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, undated.

Cichlid Fish Behavior, Cichlid Fish Center, 2010

{28} Reebs, Stéphan G., “Records in the Fish World,” Université de Moncton, Canada, 2010, p.10.

{29} Goodman, Susan, “Fish Say the Darndest Things,” National Wildlife Federation, February 1, 1996.

{30} Reebs, Stéphan G., “Fish Behavior,” 2001, p. 66.

Kalat, James W., “Biological Psychology,” 2009, p. 115.

{31} Reebs, Stéphan G., “Cooperation in Fish,” 2011.

“Mutualism and the Cleaner Wrasse,” Kahi Kai – One Ocean, February 22, 2012.

{32} Spinks, Peter, “Nature’s Amazing Synchrony Explained,” The Age, November 15, 2011.

{33} Cullen, Andrew, “Scientists Discover that Certain Fish Use Sign Language When Hunting,” Yes Science!, March 1, 2013.

Read, P.K., “Referential Gestures,” ChampagneWhisky, April 30, 2013.

{34} Norris, Paul F., “Tooling Around Underwater,” AnimalWise, July 12, 2011.

Bernardi, G., “The Use of Tools by Wrasses (Labridae),” Coral Reefs, September 20, 2011.

Stephens, Tim, “Video Shows Tool Use by a Fish,” University of California, Santa Cruz, September 28, 2011.

{35} Brown, Culum, “Tool Use in Fishes,” Fish and Fisheries, November 24, 2011.

{36} Brown, Culum, “Not Just a Pretty Face,” New Scientist, June 12, 2004.

{37} Brown, Culum, “Fish Schools—Teaching the Little Tackers How to Survive,” Catalyst (interview by Mark Horstman), December 4, 2007.

{38} Orenstein, Peggy, “Champions of the Deep,” New York Times Magazine, June 23, 1991.