Fish Heads

A Lesson on Adaptation

head 9 About This Lesson from CGLAS head 6
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head 1 Guiding Question: head 7
Why aren't all fish alike?





  1. Fish head handout or dried fish heads
  2. Pencil

Procedures and Activity



  1. Ask how many children have pets. How many have dogs? Ask what breeds their dogs are. How are breeds different and how are they the same? Discuss how animals such as dogs can be similar but have features that make them different. Talk about small dogs that are adapted to chasing game down holes, or webbed-toe breeds adapted to water rescue. Then ask the question, "Why are animals different?"
  2. Today, we are going to look at different types of fish heads and discuss why they are different and how they came to be this way.


  1. Give students handout. Review the vocabulary terms habitat, niche and adaptation. Ask: what is in an aquatic environment? How might these environmental factors vary from one lake to another. Are they different in lakes and rivers? What about in the ocean?
  2. Have students examine pictures of fish heads on handout or actual fish heads.
  3. Ask the question, "How are these fish heads different?" What features do they have which vary and which are the same? Look at the shapes of their heads, the size and shape of their mouths and teeth, and the location of their eyes.
  4. What might these similarities and differences tell you about where the fish lives, what kind of food it eats, and where it is in the food chain?

Closing - Original Question

Ask again, "Why aren't all fish alike?"


Let each student pick a fish head and describe its traits and share what they think the traits tell about the fish and the kind of niche it would be most successful in. Listen for evidence of understanding of the terms niche, habitat, and adaptation.

Extension Ideas

  1. Ask students to discuss animals other than fish. What features do animals such as giraffes, anteaters, kangaroos, and skunks have that are adaptive? Can you think of some other animals that have special features that make them especially well suited to their habitat? Birds are a wonderful everyday example: are their feet adapted to perch on tree trunks or to run on the beach or to swim? Are their beaks good for cracking nuts or for getting insects out of tiny spaces or for sifting through water? Are their wings adapted for the silent flight of a predator? Anyone with a backyard birdfeeder could share some knowledge of what birds eat and how.

  2. Discuss how plants might adapt to an environment and ask if they can think of any plants that have adaptive features.

  3. What would happen if the environment changed? How do you think animals such as dinosaurs became extinct? Are animals becoming extinct today? Research an endangered species and share your findings with the class. Find out about the animal's habitat. Look for some features that make it well suited for that environment. Tell the class why the animal is endangered. Is there some connection between the animal's features, its habitat, and the animal being endangered?

  4. Visit the University of Michigan's Museum of Zoology Division of Fishes for more information about fish.

Careers Related to the Lesson Topic

Prerequisite Vocabulary

The place where an organism normally lives and grows
The role an organism plays in the environment
When an organism develops features which best suit its environment

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Last amended 2 May 03