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   Chapter 3 THE DISSECTION OF THE FISH

A Guide to the Study of Fishes, Volume 1 (of 2) By David Starr Jordan Characters: 12607

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The Blue-green Sunfish.-The organs found in the abdominal cavity of the fish may be readily traced in a rapid dissection. Any of the bony fishes may be chosen, but for our purposes the sunfish will serve as well as any. The names and location of the principal organs are shown in the accompanying figure, from Kellogg's Zoology. It represents the blue-green sunfish, Apomotis cyanellus, from the Kansas River, but in these regards all the species of sunfishes are alike. We may first glance at the different organs as shown in the sequence of dissection, leaving a detailed account of each to the subsequent pages.

The Viscera.-Opening the body cavity of the fish, as shown in the plate, we see below the back-bone a membranous sac closed and filled with air. This is the air-bladder, a rudiment of that structure which in higher vertebrates is developed as a lung. The alimentary canal passes through the abdominal cavity extending from the mouth through the pharynx and ending at the anus or vent. The stomach has the form of a blind sac, and at its termination are a number of tubular sacs, the pyloric c?ca, which secrete a digestive fluid. Beyond the pylorus extends the intestine with one or two loops to the anus. Connected with the intestine anteriorly is the large red mass of the liver, with its gall-bladder, which serves as a reservoir for bile, the fluid the liver secretes. Farther back is another red glandular mass, the spleen.

In front of the liver and separated from it by a membrane is the heart. This is of four parts. The posterior part is a thin-walled reservoir, the sinus venosus, into which blood enters through the jugular vein from the head and through the cardinal vein from the kidney. From the sinus venosus it passes forward into a large thin-walled chamber, the auricle.

Fig. 16.-Dissection of the Blue-green Sunfish, Apomotis cyanellus Rafinesque. (After Kellogg.)-27.

Next it flows into the thick-walled ventricle, whence by the rhythmical contraction of its walls it is forced into an arterial bulb which lies at the base of the ventral aorta, which carries it on to the gills. After passing through the fine gill-filaments, it is returned to the dorsal aorta, a large blood-vessel which extends along the lower surface of the back-bone, giving out branches from time to time.

The kidneys in fishes constitute an irregular mass under the back-bone posteriorly. They discharge their secretions through the ureter to a small urinary bladder, and thence into the urogenital sinus, a small opening behind the anus. Into the same sinus are discharged the reproductive cells in both sexes.

In the female sunfish the ovaries consist of two granular masses of yellowish tissue lying just below and behind the swim-bladder. In the spring they fill much of the body cavity and the many little eggs can be plainly seen. When mature they are discharged through the oviduct to the urogenital sinus. In some fishes there is no special oviduct and the eggs pass into the abdominal cavity before exclusion.

In the male the reproductive organs have the same position as the ovaries in the female. They are, however, much smaller in size and paler in color, while the minute spermatozoa appear milky rather than granular on casual examination. A vas deferens leads from each of these organs into the urogenital sinus.

The lancelets, lampreys, and hagfishes possess no genital ducts. In the former the germ cells are shed into the atrial cavity, and from there find their way to the exterior either through the mouth or the atrial pore; in the latter they are shed directly into the body cavity, from which they escape through the abdominal pores. In the sharks and skates the Wolffian duct in the male, in addition to its function as an excretory duct, serves also as a passage for the sperm, the testes having a direct connection with the kidneys. In these forms there is a pair of Müllerian ducts which serve as oviducts in the females; they extend the length of the body cavity, and at their anterior end have an opening which receives the eggs which have escaped from the ovary into the body cavity. In some bony fishes as the eels and female salmon the germ cells are shed into the body cavity and escape through genital pores, which, however, may not be homologous with abdominal pores. In most other bony fishes the testes and ovaries are continued directly into ducts which open to the outside.

Organs of Nutrition.-The organs thus shown in dissection we may now examine in detail.

Fig. 17.-Black Swallower, Chiasmodon niger Johnson, containing a fish larger than itself. Le Have Bank.

The mouth of the fish is the organ or series of structures first concerned in nutrition. The teeth are outgrowths from the skin, primarily as modified papill?, aiding the mouth in its various functions of seizing, holding, cutting, or crushing the various kinds of food material. Some fishes feed exclusively on plants, some on plants and animals alike, some exclusively on animals, some on the mud in which minute plants and animals occur. The majority of fishes feed on other fishes, and without much regard to species or condition. With the carnivorous fishes, to feed represents the chief activity of the organism. In proportion to the voracity of the fish is usually the size of the mouth, the sharpness of the teeth, and the length of the lower jaw.

The most usual type of teeth among fishes is that of villiform bands. Villiform teeth are short, slender, even, close-set, making a rough velvety surface. When the teeth are larger and more widely separated, they are called cardiform, like the teeth of a wool-card. Granular teeth are small, blunt, and sand-like. Canine teeth are those projecting above the level of the others, usually sharp, curved, and in some species barbed. Sometimes the canines are in front. In some families the last tooth in either jaw may be a "posterior canine," serving to hold small animals in place while the anterior teeth crush them. Canine teeth are often depressible, having a hinge at base.

Fig. 18.-Jaws of a Parrot-fish, Sparisoma aurofrenatum (Val.). Cuba.

Teeth very slender and brush-like are called setiform. Teeth with blunt tips are molar. These are usually enlarged and fitted for crushing shells. Fl

at teeth set in mosaic, as in many rays and in the pharyngeals of parrot-fishes, are said to be paved or tessellated. Knife-like teeth, occasionally with serrated edges, are found in many sharks. Many fishes have incisor-like teeth, some flattened and truncate like human teeth, as in the sheepshead, sometimes with serrated edges. Often these teeth are movable, implanted only in the skin of the lips. In other cases they are set fast in the jaw. Most species with movable teeth or teeth with serrated edges are herbivorous, while strong incisors may indicate the choice of snails and crabs as food. Two or more of these different types may be found in the same fish. The knife-like teeth of the sharks are progressively shed, new ones being constantly formed on the inner margins of the jaw, so that the teeth are marching to be lost over the edge of the jaw as soon as each has fulfilled its function. In general the more distinctly a species is a fish-eater, the sharper are the teeth. Usually fishes show little discrimination in their choice of food; often they devour the young of their own species as readily as any other. The digestive process is rapid, and most fishes rapidly increase in size in the process of development. When food ceases to be abundant the fishes grow more slowly. For this reason the same species will grow to a larger size in large streams than in small ones, in lakes than in brooks. In most cases there is no absolute limit to growth, the species growing as long as it lives. But while some species endure many years, others are certainly very shortlived, and some may be even annual, dying after spawning, perhaps at the end of the first season.

Teeth are wholly absent in several groups of fishes. They are, however, usually present on the premaxillary, dentary, and pharyngeal bones. In the higher forms, the vomer, palatines, and gill-rakers are rarely without teeth, and in many cases the pterygoids, sphenoids, and the bones of the tongue are similarly armed.

No salivary glands or palatine velum are developed in fishes. The tongue is always bony or gristly and immovable. Sometimes taste-buds are developed on it, and sometimes these are found on the barbels outside the mouth.

Fig. 19.-Sheepshead (with incisor teeth), Archosargus probatocephalus (Walbaum). Beaufort, N. C.

The Alimentary Canal.-The mouth-cavity opens through the pharynx between the upper and lower pharyngeal bones into the ?sophagus, whence the food passes into the stomach. The intestinal tract is in general divided into four portions-?sophagus, stomach, small and large intestines. But these divisions of the intestines are not always recognizable, and in the very lowest forms, as in the lancelet, the stomach is a simple straight tube without subdivision.

In the lampreys there is a distinction only of the ?sophagus with many longitudinal folds and the intestine with but one. In the bony fishes the stomach is an enlarged area, either siphon-shaped, with an opening at either end, or else forming a blind sac with the openings for entrance (cardiac) and exit (pyloric) close together at the anterior end. In the various kinds of mullets (Mugil) and in the hickory shad (Dorosoma), fishes which feed on minute vegetation mixed with mud, the stomach becomes enlarged to a muscular gizzard, like that of a fowl. Attached near the pylorus and pouring their secretions into the duodenum or small intestine are the pyloric c?ca. These are tubular sacs secreting a pale fluid and often almost as long as the stomach or as wide as the intestine. These may be very numerous as in the salmon, in which case they are likely to become coalescent at base, or they be few or altogether wanting.

Besides these appendages which are wanting in the higher vertebrates, a pancreas is also found in the sharks and many other fishes. This is a glandular mass behind the stomach, its duct leading into the duodenum and often coalescent with the bile duct from the liver. The liver in the lancelet is a long diverticulum of the intestine. In the true fishes it becomes a large gland of irregular form, and usually but not always provided with a gall-bladder as in the higher vertebrates. Its secretions usually pass through a ductus cholodechus to the duodenum.

The spleen, a dark-red lymphatic gland, is found attached to the stomach in all fish-like vertebrates except the lancelet.

The lining membrane of the abdominal cavity is known as the peritoneum, and the membrane sustaining the intestines from the dorsal side, as in the higher vertebrates, is called the mesentery. In many species the peritoneum is jet black, while in related forms it may be pale in color. It is more likely to be black in fishes from deep water and in fishes which feed on plants.

The Spiral Valve.-In the sharks or skates the rectum or large intestine is peculiarly modified, being provided with a spiral valve, with sometimes as many as forty gyrations. A spiral valve is also present in the more ancient types of the true fishes as dipnoans, crossopterygians, and ganoids. This valve greatly increases the surface of the intestine, doing away with the necessity for length. In the bowfin (Amia) and the garpike (Lepisosteus) the valve is reduced to a rudiment of three or four convolutions near the end of the intestine. In the sharks and skates the intestine opens into a cloaca, which contains also the urogenital openings. In all fishes the latter lie behind the orifice of the intestine. In the bony fishes and the ganoids there is no cloaca.

Fig. 20.-Stone-roller, Campostoma anomalum (Rafinesque). Family Cyprinid?. Showing nuptial tubercles and intestines coiled about the air-bladder.

Length of the Intestine.-In all fishes, as in the higher vertebrates, the length of the alimentary canal is coordinated with the food of the fish. In those which feed upon plants the intestine is very long and much convoluted, while in those which feed on other fishes it is always relatively short. In the stone-roller, a fresh-water minnow (Campostoma) found in the Mississippi Valley, the excessively long intestines filled with vegetable matter are wound spool-fashion about the large air-bladder. In all other fishes the air-bladder lies on the dorsal side of the intestinal canal.

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