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Stephen Spotte’s Scientific Word Of The Week: Ichthyology

Stephen Spotte’s Scientific Word Of The Week: Ichthyology

Stephen Spotte is a marine scientist and writer. He has published 19 books, including four volumes of fiction, a memoir, and a work of cultural theory. He is a Certified Wildlife Biologist of The Wildlife Society and also holds a U.S. Merchant Marine officer’s license. His popular articles about the sea have appeared in National Wildlife, On the Sound, Animal Kingdom, Explorers Journal, and Science Digest. As a life-long researcher, Stephen holds a soft spot for the possibilities of science’s astonishing unrealities to be mined and their contents allowed to metamorphose into strange shapes and patterns in his fiction writing.

ichthyology (n)

the branch of zoology that deals with fishes.


Among ichthyologists (biologists who are fish specialists) the terms fish and fishes have different meanings. Fish is singular when applied to an individual of any species or to a group comprising two or more individuals of the same species. When referring to a mixed group (i.e. comprising more than one species) the correct term is fishes. (A group of fish or fishes can be called a either a school or shoal, the latter term preferred by European specialists.) Therefore a school (or shoal) of a hundred Atlantic herrings is a school of fish because all individuals are the same species. Add a single Atlantic mackerel and it becomes a school of fishes because two species are now present. Ichthyology is the study of fishes by not being limited to a single individual or species.


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