Fossil range: Ordovician–Neogene
A giant grouper at the Georgia Aquarium, seen swimming among schools of other fish
The ornate red lionfish as seen from a head-on view
A fish is any gill-bearing aquatic vertebrate (or craniate) animal that lacks limbs with digits. Included in this definition are the living hagfish, lampreys, and cartilaginous and bony fish, as well as various extinct related groups. Because the term is defined negatively, and excludes the tetrapods (i.e., the amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) which descend from within the same ancestry, it is paraphyletic. The traditional term pisces (also ichthyes) is considered a typological, but not a phylogenetic classification.
Most fish are "cold-blooded", or ectothermic, allowing their body temperatures to vary as ambient temperatures change. Fish are abundant in most bodies of water. They can be found in nearly all aquatic environments, from high mountain streams (e.g., char and gudgeon) to the abyssal and even hadal depths of the deepest oceans (e.g., gulpers and anglerfish). At 31,900 species, fish exhibit greater species diversity than any other class of vertebrates.
Fish, especially as food, are an important resource worldwide. Commercial and subsistence fishers hunt fish in wild fisheries (see fishing) or farm them in ponds or in cages in the ocean (see aquaculture). They are also caught by recreational fishers, kept as pets, raised by fishkeepers, and exhibited in public aquaria. Fish have had a role in culture through the ages, serving as deities, religious symbols, and as the subjects of art, books and movies. [continues]
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