Our mesmerizing fish

“When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself.”
Jacques Yves Cousteau

Fish come in a wide range of sizes and shapes, but most exhibit a basic torpedo-shaped body that is modified according to where in the ocean the fish lives and how it makes its living. The streamlined bodies of fast swimming fish are generally long and thin, with rigid fins that help them zip through the open ocean, the pelagic environment, at speeds of up to 50 m.p.h. for blue fin tuna. Less streamlined fish tend to be shorter and wider, with more flexible fins in order to maneuver in and around reefs and kelp forests to find prey and avoid predators. Flatfish start life as larvae that look like typical fish but as they grow, one eye migrates to the opposite side of the head and its body flattens side to side. When the juvenile transforms into a small version of the adult, the fish settles onto the sea bed where it spends the rest of its life as a benthic animal, lying on one side but with both eyes looking upward for prey. Some fish, like garden eels, live in tubes within the sand, and they have a body form that resembles that of a worm. They hide in their tubes when predators threaten but emerge from the tube, all except the tip of the tail, to feed on zooplankton. Garden eels are somewhat aggressive, and they fight with each other for feeding space, with the result that each eel is just one body length away from its nearest neighbor. When all of the eels are feeding, they look like they have been planted in a garden, in ranks and rows.

Fish have evolved defense mechanisms to deal with predators: poison, camouflage, spines, electricity, and, of course, sharp teeth. Behavioral adaptations also protect fish from predators. Some fish school in large groups to confuse predators. Some hide in plants and rock formations. Flying fish leap out of the water and spread their pectoral fins, like wings, and glide away from their predators, often for distances of up to 100 meters, the length of a football field.

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