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Lesson Two: Parts of a Fish

In this activity students will learn the external anatomy of the salmon and the function that each feature serves. Salmon have adapted these features for surivival. Students will compare parts of the salmon to features that plants and humans have.

Students will be able to:

  • Define "adaptations" and identify and explain adaptations salmon have.
  • Compare and contrast the external features of salmon and humans.

Time Required
One fifty minute class session

Materials Required
Classroom plant such as a bean plant
Writing supplies
Copies of activity page (answer key)
Poster showing parts of a salmon
Option: a fresh or frozen salmon

1. Have students identify the parts of a plant and describe what each part does.
For example: The stem holds up the plant, the leaves collect sunlight and make food, the roots hold the plant in the ground and collect moisture, etc.

2. Have students identify the parts of a human and describe what each part does.
For example: The legs hold people up and let people move, arms let people hold things, the mouth let's people eat, etc.

3. Have the class use a poster of a salmon (or a fresh or frozen salmon) to identify the external body parts, i.e., head, mouth, eyes, nostril, gills, body, lateral line, fins (pectoral, pelvic, dorsal, anal, adipose), tail, skin, scales. Discuss the function of each part using the background information provided.

4. Define the term "adaptation" and discuss how salmon have adapted to their freshwater or saltwater environments.
Option: Some independent education suppliers, stores and catalogs carry cloth fish, 3-D models and posters that could help you to introduce the external (and internal) body parts.

5. Have students make and label their own drawing of a fish (or place labels on the drawing provided).

6. Make a list or Venn diagram of overlapping circles with the class to identify features in fish and humans that are similar and different.
For example: Both have a mouth, a nose, and eyes, but fish have a lateral line, fins, tails, scales, and they use gills to get oxygen from the water. People have a neck, arms, legs, and hair and use lungs to breathe air.

1. Have older students make a chart comparing the functions of the body parts of fish and humans.
For example: To move, people use legs, fish use tails; to breathe, people use noses, fish use mouth and gills, etc.

2. Interactive Salmon dissection game (

Answer Key

The Salmon Source: An Educator's Guide. Used with permission from California Department of Fish and Wildlife.