Mr. Fish Bones: Some Spooktacular Skeletons

Brynn Hooton and Kelsey James assemble a rockfish skeleton for Ichthyology class (photo: E. Loury)

Erin Loury

by Erin Loury, Ichthyology Lab

Skeletons are not just the stuff of Halloween at a marine lab – bones galore grace these halls of science year round.  Although being surrounded by dead things can lead to some unfortunate stereotypes of mad scientists with macabre fetishes, getting up close and personal with bones is one of the best lessons in basic anatomy.

That’s why in Spring 2008, many of us set to the task of cleaning, taking apart and putting together fish skeletons for our Ichthyology class to  better understand how the skeletal structures of these fish “work.”  In honor of Halloween, check out some of our bone creations – I mean, preparations (affectionately known as “bone preps”):

Wolf Eel, prepared by Megan Winton and Jenny Kemper (photo: E. Loury)
Pacific Haliut, prepared by Clinton Moran (photo: E. Loury)
Pacific Halibut, prepared by Clinton Moran (photo: E. Loury)
Vermilion Rockfish, prepared by Katie Schmidt and Kristin Hunter-Thomson. (photo: E. Loury)

Learning bones can have some practical bearing for research as well.  While going through the stomach contents of my gopher rockfish, I have had to try to identify little fish prey items from their bones.   As an example of cool cross-disciplinary collaborations, I and some other diet students have enlisted the help of Crisite Boone, an archaeologist from UC Santa Cruz who is an expert in fish bones from her study of California Indian middens.  Who knew that identifying fish from bits of bone pieces could be a transferable skill?

Here’s a look at one of the more unique skeletons I found, that of a prickleback of some kind.  Note the really robust spines on its back – looks almost…prickley, wouldn’t you say?

Mind the spines! Prickleback skeleton found in gopher rockfish stomach (photo: E. Loury).

Happy Halloween!!!

This entry was posted in Erin Loury, Research: Live from the Labs, Tales from the Classroom, What's Happening at MLML and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Mr. Fish Bones: Some Spooktacular Skeletons

  1. 38n121s says:

    Hey I know this isn’t reAlly the topic of this post but I will ask anyway. Why does there seem to be million of jellies in Monterey bay right now? Is this a normal occurance I’ve never seen so many from the shore as I did yesterday. Thanks in advance for your expertise.


  2. Ann Fonts says:

    Hi, I would like to know what process you used to clean your fish skeletons. Did the skeletons stay together or did you have to piece them back together? Thanks for your time!!


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