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Introducing Class Pisces

Introducing Class Pisces

Pisces is a term that refers to a superclass of vertebrates with true jaws and those that are aquatic. The word “Pisces” comes from the plural form of the Latin word “Piscis”, which means fish. Pisces is a class containing all types of fish. Such vertebrates possess specific organs for respiration, blood circulation, locomotion, and excretion. Fish/Pisces are unable to regulate their body temperature, hence called Poikilotherms.

Table of Contents:

  • An Introduction to Class Pisces
  • General Characteristics of Class Pisces
  • Subclasses of Class Pisces
  • Practice Problems on Class Pisces 
  • Frequently Asked Questions on Class Pisces

An Introduction to Class Pisces

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Super Class: Pisces

One of the most varied and numerous groups of vertebrates on Earth is the class Pisces, usually referred to as the class of fish. With over 30,000 species currently recognised, Pisces inhabit a wide range of aquatic settings, from freshwater lakes and rivers to the deepest parts of the ocean, and display an impressive spectrum of adaptations.

These animals have streamlined bodies, gills for breathing, and propulsion fins, enabling them to swim through the water with grace and agility. From majestic whale sharks to tiny guppies, members of Class Pisces exhibit a remarkable range of shapes, sizes, colours, and behaviours, making them a captivating and important part of the world's ecosystems.

General Characteristics of Class Pisces

Enlisted below are some general characteristics of Class Pisces:

  • Aquatic Vertebrates: All members of the class have a spinal column and are considered vertebrates.
  • Adapted for Life in Water: Fish have streamlined bodies with scales that help them move through the water. They also have fins for stability, manoeuvrability, and propulsion.
  • Respiration through Gills: Fish breathe through their gills, which are specialised organs that extract oxygen from water and facilitate efficient gas exchange.
  • Ectothermic: Fish are cold-blooded animals, meaning their body temperature is affected by the temperature of their surroundings.
  • Reproduction: Fish typically reproduce by laying eggs. External fertilisation is common in some species, where eggs and sperm are released into the water, while others use internal fertilisation.
  • Habitat Diversity: Fish can be found in a range of aquatic environments, such as freshwater areas like rivers, lakes, and ponds, as well as marine habitats like oceans, coral reefs, and estuaries.
  • Dietary Variety: Fish exhibit a wide variety of eating techniques. Some are omnivorous or carnivorous, eating smaller fish, crustaceans, or even trash, while others are herbivorous, eating plants and algae.
  • Sensory Systems: Fish have highly developed sensory organs, such as eyes for seeing, lateral lines to sense water movement, and specific taste buds and nostrils for smelling and sensing chemicals and food.
  • Diversity of Species: With over 30,000 recognised species, the Pisces class is extraordinarily varied. The diverse range of sizes, forms, colours, and behaviour patterns encompasses everything from tiny tropical reef fish to enormous ocean-dwelling sharks.

Therefore, the Class Pisces is highly adaptable and diverse, leading to their success in aquatic ecosystems.

Subclasses of Class Pisces

Class Pisces, or the class of fish, is further divided into two subclasses: Chondrichthyes and Osteichthyes. Here's an overview of these subclasses:

Subclass Placodermi (Armoured Fish)

The subclass Placodermi offers important information about the early evolution and adaptations of jawed vertebrates. Placodermi was an armoured fish that lived from the Silurian to the end of the Devonian period, about 440 to 360 million years ago.

  • Placoderms were one of the first creatures with jaws and backbones, playing a crucial role in the evolution from jawless fish to more advanced jawed species.
  • Unique body structure with a heavy armour of bony plates covering their head and trunk for protection and support.
  • A variety of sizes and body shapes, ranging from small and streamlined to large and heavily armoured.
  • While some placoderms had well-developed jaws and teeth, others had unique feeding mechanisms that were adapted to their particular diets.
  • They lived in both freshwater and marine settings, among other aquatic conditions.
  • Diverse placoderm species have diverse reproductive strategies; some lay eggs, while others give birth to live offspring.
  • By the end of the Devonian era, placoderms had all but vanished, perhaps as a result of a number of reasons, including environmental changes and competition from other fish species.

Subclass Chondrichthyes (Cartilaginous Fish):

Cartilaginous fish have skeletons consisting of cartilage rather than bone.

  • They have paired fins, slits in the gills, and a streamlined body.
  • Sharks, rays, and skates are just a few examples.
  • On their skin, the majority of species contain placoid scales, which resemble tiny teeth.
  • Gills are used for respiration, and some species also include spiracles for bringing in water.
  • Different species have different modes of reproduction; some are oviparous (laid eggs), while others are viviparous (give birth to live offspring).
  • Fish with cartilage are primarily marine species.

Subclass Osteichthyes (Bony Fish):

Bony fish have skeletons made of bone, which offers greater structural support.

  • They have a bony operculum that covers their gill openings.
  • Bony fish have swim bladders, which are gas-filled organs that let them manage their buoyancy.
  • The most popular fish, such as salmon, tuna, trout, and goldfish, are examples.
  • They have a vast range of habitats and different body sizes, hues, and forms.
  • Actinopterygii (ray-finned fish) and Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) are the two additional infraclasses within the phylum Osteichthyes.
  • The most varied group of fish are those with ray-finned fins or Actinopterygii. These fish have bony rays that support their fins.
  • Lungfish and coelacanths are examples of lobe-finned fish (Sarcopterygii) with fleshy lobes on their fins. They are older and less diverse.

These subclasses aid in the classification and comprehension of the enormous diversity of fish that may be found in aquatic habitats worldwide. They reflect the main evolutionary divisions within Class Pisces.

Practice Problems on Class Pisces 

Q1. What is a shared characteristic among all members of Class Pisces?

A. Endothermic metabolism
B. Oviparous reproduction
C. Lung respiration
D. External fertilisation

Ans: C. Oviparous reproduction

The Class Pisces comprises species that reproduce by laying eggs.

Q2. Which subclass of Class Pisces comprises sharks, rays, and skates?

A. Placodermi
B. Actinopterygii
C. Sarcopterygii
D. Chondrichthyes

Ans: D. Chondrichthyes

Sharks, rays, and skates are part of the Chondrichthyes subclass in the Pisces class.

Q3. Which one is the primary respiratory organ in fish?

A. Gills
B. Lungs
C. Tracheae
D. Spiracles

Ans: A. Gills

Fish use their gills as their main respiratory organs to extract oxygen from water.

Q4. What is a distinguishing trait of bony fish (Osteichthyes)?

A. Absence of fins
B. Cartilaginous skeleton
C. Swim bladder
D. External fertilisation

Ans: C. Swim bladder

Bony fish have a swim bladder, which is a gas-filled organ that allows them to control their buoyancy.

Q5. The subclass of Class Pisces that includes the most diverse group of fish is-

A. Placodermi
B. Actinopterygii
C. Chondrichthyes
D. Sarcopterygii

Ans: B. Actinopterygii

The subclass of Class Pisces known as Actinopterygii encompasses the largest and most diverse group of fish.

Frequently Asked Questions on Class Pisces

Q1. How can a fish breathe underwater?
Fish breathe using their gills, which draw oxygen out of the water. They take in water through their mouths or specialised apertures, known as spiracles, and oxygen diffuses over the gill filaments.

Q2. What are some examples of bony fish in Class Pisces?
Bony fish, such as salmon, trout, tuna, cod, perch, and goldfish, are a diverse group within Class Pisces that have skeletons made of bone.

Q3. What are some examples of cartilaginous fish in Class Pisces?
Cartilaginous fish, such as sharks, rays, and skates, have skeletons made of cartilage and are adapted for marine life.

Q4. Is it possible to consume all fish in Class Pisces?
Although there are many edible fish species in Class Pisces, not all of them are safe for consumption. Certain species may contain toxins or be protected due to conservation measures.

Q5. What fish is the largest fish?
The whale shark (Rhincodon typus), which may grow to over 40 feet in length and weigh several tonnes, is the largest fish.

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