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Fish Dissection

After you obtain a fresh fish, please follow these steps for dissecting it. Label a
section of your lab notebook, Fish Dissection, and answer the numbered questions.
Remember; answer your questions with complete sentences. Finally, have your teacher
check off your list at the end for your final evaluation.

External Anatomy
 Locate the following parts and inspect closely: Eye, nostril, lateral line, and

1. Describe the function of a fish nostril, lateral line, and operculum.

 Lift away the operculum on one side and cut off. Inside, you should notice feathery
structures known as the gills. Clip out one full section of gill and identify the
fingerlike gill filaments, the sturdy gill rakers, and the connecting gill arch.

2. Draw a gill section in your lab notebook; label the three previous parts, and
hypothesis on the function of each gill part and record.

3. Copy the following table into your lab notebook. Examine the fins on your fish and
summarize your observations in your table.

Name of Fin No. Supported by spines, Function

rays, or both

4. Remove several scales and prepare a wet mount using a slide and cover slip. Experts
can age fish by counting rings on the scales.

5. Sketch one of the scales from your fish and label it as ctenoid or cycloid.
Cycloid Ctenoid

6. Scales are formed by concentric layers of bone called circuli and are laid down at the
edge of the scale as the fish grows. Circuli are closer together during periods of
slow growth and farther apart during periods of fast growth. Among fish in
temperate regions, fast growth in the spring causes an annulus, group of circuli that
can be followed around the scale. Determine the age of the fish by counting the
number of annuli on the scale.

7. At this point, wrap your fish up and return to the cooler. We will finish our dissection

8. Next, do a little research on strange and unusual fish from around the world. Create
the following data table in your lab notebook and complete.

Common Name Size (length X weight) Unusual characateristics and/or behaviors

Porcupine fish
Shortnose batfish
Angler fish
Mekong catfish
Frilled Shark
Internal Anatomy
To see the internal organs of a fish, you basically fillet one side, removing the muscle.
Refer to the following diagram for help.

Once you have the internal organs exposed, try to identify each organ. After you feel
like you know the organs below, have your teacher quiz you and place an evaluation into
your lab notebook.
 Locate the reddish liver (grayish in a preserved specimen) near the gills. Behind the
 liver you may be able to locate a small greenish gallbladder.
 Locate the heart found in a special cavity called the pericardial cavity. You can find
it directly under the gills and in front of the liver. If you can remove the heart,
intact, that is worth a little extra credit!
 Locate the stomach and finger-like pyloric caeca in the middle of the organ mass.
You may cut open the stomach and check for worms, minnows, and crayfish… Just
posterior to (behind) the stomach you may find a football shaped spleen.
 Locate the intestine leading from the stomach to the anus
 Locate the gonads. The females will have large pink or yellow ovaries filled with
eggs. The males will have two long, skinny, cream-colored testis.
 Locate the air bladder. It is above, or superior to, all of the previous organs. You
may pop it.
 Locate the kidney above the air bladder. The kidney is dark colored and sits just
under the vertebral column.
 Locate the brain and spinal cord. To get to the spinal cord, simple cut open a part of
the vertebral column. Within the column you will find a white circle that is the spinal
cord. To find the brain, cut open the top of the head just behind the eyes and then
carefully remove the cranium. If you show the brain, in tact, to your teacher, it may
be worth a little extra credit.

Fish anatomy lab quiz! Make a list of 15 structures to show your

teacher for evaluation.

9. Which of the structures that you observed in the fish help the fish sense its position
in the water and help it to maintain or change position? Explain what each structure

10. Describe the process of counter current flow in the gills. How does it help with gas

11. Why would a fish with faulty valves in its conus arteriosus probably suffer from a
lack of energy?

12. Some cave dwelling fish have vestigial eyes since there is no light. Therefore, what
part of their brain is probably less developed and what part(s) of their brain should be
more developed?