Design a fish adapted for a coral reef and another for cold marine environments

  1. Hold up illustrations of various marine fishes and ask students where they think each one would live-in cold seas like the Gulf of Maine or in warm tropical regions. Why? Record answers.
  2. Use background information to explain purposes of fishes' coloration patterns, shapes, adaptations for protection or feeding, and where in its habitat fishes might be found.
  3. Discuss the task of a scientific illustrator to accurately record and detail species of life. When a scientific illustrator draws a fish, he or she usually makes the illustration with the fish's head pointing to the right (it's standard practice.) Often the artist's rendering may be the first view the world gets of a newly discovered species.

Discuss Charles Darwin and other naturalists whose field notes and illustrations brought new species to light.

  1. Ask students to become scientific illustrators who will invent and detail an entirely new species of fish. Prepare them for their task by asking if it is a cold water or tropical species.

Cold marine fish questions:

  • Does this fish swim in a school?
  • Does it live on the bottom?
  • Does it have to travel far?

Coral reef fish questions:

  • Does it need to blend in with the reef environment?
  • Does it have warning colors to let other fish know it is dangerous or territorial?
  • Would it mimic another kind of fish or other object (such as, sea grass, coral, rock, etc.)?
  • Does its body need to be able to squeeze into crevices or tunnels?
  1. Once the students have answered these questions, they can design and draw their fish.
  2. Have them give it a scientific name and a common name that are descriptive of their animal. As the discoverers, they may choose to use their name as part of the Latin name. Have them refer to field guides for examples of scientific names.


  • paper
  • markers
  • art supplies
  • illustrations of tropical and cold marine fishes (from a chart of cold marine fishes, a field guide to tropical marine fishes, or an aquarium guide or handbook)