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California Fish by Milan and Harison

We're Milan and Harison, and we love going to the ocean. We like to learn about the animals that live off the coast of Los Angeles, and a great place to do that is the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific. Our favorite exhibit there is the shark and ray pool. You can see them up close, and even touch them. We think it's interesting to watch a ray eat, with its mouth on the underside of its body. We got to wondering: How does a fish's mouth type affect what it eats?

What did we do?
We took a ride on the Aquarium's research boat, the Conqueror, from which we threw a trap into the bay to see what sorts of fish live near the ocean bottom. We came back the next day to count the fish we found in the trap, then we released them. Next, we got permission to snorkel the Amber Forest aquarium exhibit, to see which of those fish from the bay were also in the exhibit. Finally, from outside the exhibit, we watched as those fish at feeding time, to see how they ate their food.

What did we find out?
On the Conqueror, we saw fish with three basic types of mouth: upward facing, front facing, and downward facing. We saw similar types of fish when we snorkeled in the Amber forest. When we watched those different kinds of fish eat, we saw that fish with mouths facing down mostly at food below them, and fish with mouths facing up ate food above them. Fish with forward mouths at food above, below, and all around them!

What can you do?
  • Birds have different kinds of beaks, which allow them to eat different kinds of food. Some peck at seeds, others dig worms out of the ground, and some dig into tree bark looking for bugs. Look for birds where you live, and if you can't get a good look at their beaks, find their pictures in a bird book. Group birds with similar shape beaks together. What do birds with each type of beak eat?
  • Take a closer look at the fish at your local zoo, aquarium, pet store, or in your home aquarium. Pay attention to the fins of the fish. Fish have fins on the side, top, and bottom of their bodies, along with their tail. As the fish swims, which fins seem to move the most? Which ones don't seem to move much at all? Does the fish dart quickly from place to place, or does it sway back and forth as it slowly moves along? How does fish fin shape affect the way it swims?
  • Use this fish investigation as a science fair project idea for your elementary or middle school science fair! Then tell us about it!
more resources
Marine Ecosystems

Go to the DFTV Boards, and tell us about your science investigation.
whiz quiz
What is the distance record for swimming in the ocean without using flippers?

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