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Question Set: Defining a Fish


  1. How are the two scientific definitions similar? How are they different? Why do you think that Nelson’s definition is considered more broad than Berra’s?
  2. Which of the scientific definitions is most similar to your group definition? How is your definition different? 
  3. Take a closer look at the first definition of a fish by Berra in 1981. Underline the adjectives that help define what a fish is. Circle the qualifying words (e.g. when present, usually), which indicate that there are often exceptions. Refer to Table 3.2 for definitions of words.
  4. What does poikilothermic mean? Why is this term less misleading than the more commonly used term cold-blooded? Refer to Table 3.2 for definitions of words.
  5. Is a seahorse a fish? How does it fit your definition of a fish? How does it not? What if you use one of the scientific definitions?  
  6. What changes would you make to Berra’s definition based on the organisms in Table 3.1 or based on organisms you know about?
  7. There are many aquatic animals that are called fish, like jellyfish and starfish, that are not fish. Why are these animals not considered to be fish?

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Exploring Our Fluid Earth, a product of the Curriculum Research & Development Group (CRDG), College of Education. University of Hawaii, 2011. This document may be freely reproduced and distributed for non-profit educational purposes.