Why Get to Know a Fish?

"Fish are friends!" (Image Credit: Disney)

“Fish are friends!” (Image Credit: Disney)

FISH ARE VASTLY underrated creatures. Dead ones smell funny. In the English language, you say “something smells fishy” to express a feeling of suspicion. Sushi and raw fish are now global cuisines, yet few people really take the time to learn about what they are putting in their mouth.

But humanity has depended on fish as a source of food from the beginning. Well, I wouldn’t know. But if I were the first caveman who happened upon a fish in a pond, I would be ecstatic to find this fresh, living food — in an enclosed space! Something I don’t have to chase across a savanna! Now about inventing that fishing spear…

I love fish. I eat them. I cook them. I catch them. I like looking at them in aquariums. In museum pickle jars. Swimming with them underwater. I think baby ones are cute. Big ones with sharp teeth scare the daylights out of me. The sudden jolt of one at the end of your fishing line is an electrifying and somber connection to a living creature.

Maybe you don’t feel that way about fish. But certainly, there are many things you might come to appreciate about these marvelous animals.

What I hope to do here is to help everyone explore and learn about the amazing diversity of fish out there. They come in so many surprising shapes, colors, sizes and with unbelievable behaviors — like parental care — to incredible physical structures. And they are one of the few wild creatures where we can keep in our homes with little or no domestication, and one of the few animal meats we still harvest directly from nature and eat in surprising varieties — unlike the mundanely singular categories of chicken/pig/cow.

Fish, indeed, are our friends. They have been a critical part of human nutrition, economies, cultures and knowledge since our start.

So let’s take a tour of the amazing biodiversity of fishes out there. One pretty picture at a time. And the crazy weird pictures, too.

At the least, it’ll make you smile at seeing something beautiful or strange. At the most, you learn something new about the natural world, and it sparks some inner peace that makes you long for a chance to reconnect with nature.

Let’s start swimming!

Ben Young Landis
April 5, 2013

And a “tip of the hat” to Stephen Colbert, whose “Better Know a District” series inspired the name of this blog. Thanks for all the science, and farewell to you and your fish!