11 Plus


41% of all fish live in freshwater. There are also some important fish which breed in rivers, and spend the rest of their life in the seas. Examples are salmon, trout, the sea lamprey, and three-spined stickleback. Some fish are born in salt water, but live most of their mature lives in fresh water: for example, eels. Species like these change their physiology to cope with the amount of salt in the water.
Fish swim by exerting force against the surrounding water. There are exceptions, but this is usually done by the fish contracting muscles on either side of its body. This starts waves of movement which travel the length of the body from nose to tail, generally getting larger as they go along.
Most fishes generate thrust using lateral movements of their body and tail fin (caudal fin). However, there are also species which move mainly using their median and paired fins. The latter group profits from the gained manoeuvrability. This is needed, for example, when living in coral reefs. Such fish cannot swim as fast as fish using their bodies and caudal fins.
Fish can swim slowly for many hours using red muscle fibres. They also make short, fast bursts using white muscle. The two types of muscle have a fundamentally different physiology. The red fibres are usually alongside a much greater number of white fibres.
The white fibres get their energy by converting the carbohydrate glycogen to lactate (lactic acid). This is anaerobic metabolism, that is, it does not need oxygen. They are used for fast, short bursts. Once the lactic acid builds up in the muscles, they stop working, and it takes time for the lactate to be removed, and the glycogen replaced. Using their white fibres, fish can reach speeds of 10 lengths per second for short bursts.
Swimming for long periods needs oxygen for the red fibres. The oxygen supply has to be constant because these fibres only operate aerobically. They are red because they have a rich blood supply, and they contain myoglobin. Myoglobin transports the oxygen to the oxidising systems. Red muscle gets its energy by oxidising fat, which weight for weight has twice as much energy as carbohydrate or protein. Using their red fibres, fish can keep up a speed of 3–5 lengths per second for long periods.



What is the proper name for the tail fin of a fish?