169. There Is No Such Thing As A Fish… (English Vocabulary Lesson)



There is no such thing as a fish. You might not believe me right now, but by the end of the episode I’m confident you will understand, and maybe even agree, with my opinion. Let’s learn some biological English vocabulary while trying to answer the question… Do fish actually exist?



You may also like…

168. Should Kids Have Homework? (English Vocabulary Lesson

167. What is a Recession? (English Vocabulary Lesson)

166. Afghanistan: One Year Later! (English Vocabulary Lesson)

165. Why is Ireland Divided? (English Vocabulary Lesson)

Advertisements

(If you can’t see the podcast player CLICK HERE to listen!!)


Vocabulary List

Vertebrate (n) – an animal that has a spine

Cows, frogs, and ostriches are all vertebrates

cold-blooded (adj) – cold-blooded animals can only control their body heat by taking in heat from the outside or by being very active

Snakes and lizards are cold-blooded animals

Limbless (adj) – having no limbs (no arms, legs, or wings)

Snakes are limbless reptiles

Common ancestor (n) – one species which is the ancestor of two or more species later in time

Humans and gorillas share a common ancestor

To evolve (v) – to develop gradually

Dogs evolved from wolves

Descendant (n) – an animal that lives after and is related to another animal that lived in the past

Lemurs are descendants of early primates

To distinguish (v) – to notice or understand the difference between two things

It is difficult to distinguish between these two species

Characteristic (n) – a typical or noticeable quality of someone or something

A squashed face is an unfortunate characteristic of pugs

 

Advertisements

Why not support Thinking in English?

One-Time
Monthly
Yearly

Help to support the podcast by making a one-time donation! I would love to buy a new mic, and pay for a better blog/podcast host…

Help to support the podcast by making a monthly donation! I would love to buy a new mic, and pay for a better blog/podcast host

Help to support the podcast by making a yearly donation! I would love to buy a new mic, and pay for a better blog/podcast host…

Choose an amount

$5.00
$15.00
$100.00
$5.00
$15.00
$100.00
$5.00
$15.00
$100.00

Or donate what you like!

$

Thank you so much for your donation! Reach out to me on Instagram, or by the contact form above, and I’ll be happy to thank you in person!

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

Mammals exist – they are the warm-blooded vertebrate animals that usually feed their young with milk and give birth to live babies. We are mammals – so are elephants, mice, dolphins, and tigers.

I’m sure you have seen a bird before – they are warm-blooded vertebrate animals that lay eggs, have feathers and a beak, and often can fly. Ostriches, canaries, pigeons, and eagles – they are definitely birds, and they definitely exist.

How about amphibians? These are cold-blooded vertebrate animals that live fully in water when young, and then undergo a transformation as adults where they live mainly on land and breath through lungs. Frogs, newts, toads, and salamanders – and they all certainly exist.

Mammals exist, birds exist, amphibians exist, and I’m pretty sure other types of animals like reptiles exist… but what about fish? Do fish exist?


Join My New Subscriber Patreon!!!

  • Bonus Episodes
  • Extra Content
  • Live Chats
  • Language Meet ups
  • English Classes
  • And Much More!

Click here – https://www.patreon.com/thinkinginenglish to join now!!


Advertisements

Do Fish Exist?

I’m sure you read the title of today’s episode and thought I must have made a mistake or a typo. “There is no such things as a fish” … that must be wrong, right? Well, according to a certain group of scientists, it is a factual statement. There is actually no such thing as a fish.

The definitions I gave earlier for mammals, amphibians, and birds were just the first result when I searched those words on google, so I’ll do the same for fish. According to the google defintion, which I think comes from the Oxford dictionary, a fish is a “limbless cold-blooded vertebrate animal with gills and fins living wholly in water.” In other words, a cold-blooded animal with bones that lives and breathes under water.

This sounds like a nice defintion of a fish to me. In this category, we could include sharks, tuna, salmon, angler fish, lungfish, and clown fish. They are all cold blooded, they all live under water, and they all have bones. So, they must all be fish – where is the problem.

Well, the problem is that these animals are not actually that closely related. In fact, the lungfish is more closely related to a cow than it is to salmon. You heard me right… the lungfish (which lives underwater and has cold blood) is closer to the warm-blooded land-living cow than to the salmon.

Advertisements

Taxonomy

Let me try to explain. We are going to need to have a brief lesson in taxonomy to understand this – I’m not a scientist, and I’m sure there are a few scientists listening right now, so I apologise if I make a mistake!

Taxonomy, in a nutshell, is how we categorize all living things. It is sometimes described as the tree of life! It is based on the idea of a common ancestor – the concept that a wide range of diverse animals today are descended from one living creature that lived millions of years ago. All mammals, for example, are thought to have one common ancestor.

The “tree of life”

This tree of life is separated into different categories: Kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. There are a lot of complicated words here, so I’ll try to include a picture or image on the blog to help you understand. But let’s try to understand it with our own species – the human.

Our kingdom in animalia (like every single animal on the planet), our class is mammalia (like other mammals), our order is primates (along with monkeys, apes, and lemurs), and our species is Homo Sapien. The reason these classifications are accepted by scientist is that they indicate where animals evolved from.

Fish, however, do not all have the same common ancestors. There is an incredible amount of diversity in our oceans, lakes, and rivers. And animals have been living in the oceans for significantly longer than life has existed outside of the ocean.

One amazing fact to illustrate this point is that sharks are older than trees. The earliest shark fossils we have found date from around 450 million years ago. The oldest evidence of trees dates back to around 360 million years ago. Sharks, or the descendants of modern sharks, are probably 90 million years older than trees and 200 million years older than dinosaurs. These numbers are so large it is hard for us to understand.

Life has existed in the oceans for an incredibly long time. And during this time, there have been various different evolutions and splits in the tree of life! Mammals, birds, reptiles – all of these evolved from something that we would call a fish. All life started in the water. We are often able to distinguish between these types of animals because of their appearance and physical characterisitcs, but under the ocean there is just as much diversity.

Leopard Lungfish – Wikimedia Commons

Like I mentioned earlier, the example often highlighted is the lungfish. Lungfish are a type of animal that live in freshwater, and if you look at them, they appear to fit the characteristics of fish. However, lungfish can breathe air and have lungs. The lungfish are quite an important “fish” for us – they are the closest living relative to all amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. We, humans, share a common ancestor with lungfish around 390 million years ago.

This is why we say that lungfish are closer to cows than salmon. Both cows and lungfish evolved from an animal which had lungs. Salmon never had lungs. Therefore, lungfish and cows have a common ancestor closer than lungfish and salmon do.  

Do you want to Think in English?

I’m so excited that you found my blog and podcast!! If you don’t want to miss an article or an episode, you can subscribe to my page!

Advertisements

Does it matter?

Classifying and categorising animals is something that humans love to do. When I said that “there is no such thing as a fish,” I wasn’t suggesting that sharks, salmon, and lungfish don’t exist. Instead, I used the phrase to highlight how limited, perhaps even pointless, the term fish is. If we consider lungfish and salmon to both be fish, then from an evolutionary perspective humans, frogs, ostriches, and lizards are also fish… and of course we are not fish!

Actually, the term fish is only useless to scientists. It is probably quite useful for fisherman and fishmongers. They probably care more about the appearance and taste of the animal, than where it evolved from or which other animals it is related to.

But organising animals based on appearance is not necessarily the best system – in fact, it is a terrible system. It is not based on science or evidence, but on human judgement. Just because a tuna, a shark, a clownfish, and a lungfish resemble each other, doesn’t mean they are the same thing!

Never miss an episode

Subscribe wherever you enjoy podcasts:

Advertisements

Final Thought

One of the reasons I wanted to make this episode is to demonstrate the limitations of language. Our word fish, which I’m pretty sure has an equivalent in every language, seems like a perfectly acceptable word. But it completely ignores that incredible diversity of life in the ocean.

The category fish, from an evolutionary perspective, is useless. Not all fish are closely related – millions of years of evolution has created different branches of the “tree of life.” Actually, “tree of life” is a strange choice here considering that fish are millions of years older than trees.

I’m not suggesting you stop using the word fish – it is pretty useful in restaurants and the supermarket. But I do suggest you think twice about the categories and definitions we use in our daily lives!

What do you think? Do we need some new words to describe fish? Are you surprised that a lungfish is more related to you than it is to a salmon? What is an unbelievable fact that you know?


Advertisements
Advertisements

2 responses to “169. There Is No Such Thing As A Fish… (English Vocabulary Lesson)”

  1. Hi Tom,

    I am your podcast lover in Japan and currious about the English club. But isn’t it impossible to be a subscriber or member from Japan?
    I would be happy if I could hear from you.

    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to deandrahanania Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Advertisements

Check out my recent podcast episodes!

189. Why is Scotland in the UK? (English Vocabulary Lesson) Thinking in English

Support the Podcast and Join my Patreon HERE — https://www.patreon.com/thinkinginenglish Check Out the NEW YOUTUBE Channel!!! – https://www.youtube.com/@thinkinginenglishpodcast TRANSCRIPT – https://thinkinginenglish.blog/2022/11/30/why-is-scotland-in-the-uk/ What is the difference between the UK, Great Britain, the British Isles, and England? What is the United Kingdom? And why did Scotland join the UK? Let’s discuss these topics, and practice some vocabulary, on today’s episode of Thinking in English! You may also like… I Moved Country (Again)!! 188. Should We Boycott the Qatar World Cup? (English Vocabulary Lesson) 187. Who is Elon Musk? (English Vocabulary Lesson) 186. What is Thanksgiving?: The REAL Story Behind America’s Most Famous Holiday (English Vocabulary Lesson) INSTAGRAM – thinkinginenglishpodcast (https://www.instagram.com/thinkinginenglishpodcast/)  Blog – thinkinginenglish.blog YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/@thinkinginenglishpodcast Vocabulary List Interchangeably (adv) – in a way that can be exchanged without making any difference or without being noticed Figs can be used interchangeably with dates in this recipe Kingdom (n) – a country ruled by a king or queen They visited many kingdoms while travelling Union (n) – a political unit made up of two or more separate units such as states The United Kingdom is a union of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland To conquer (v) – to take control or possession of foreign land, or a group of people, by force The English were conquered by the Normans in 1066 Sovereign (adj) – having the highest power or being completely independent We must respect the rights of sovereign states/nations to conduct their own affairs. Bankrupt (informal adj) – having no money I’ll go bankrupt if you keep asking me for money! Devolution (n) – the moving of power or responsibility from a main organization to a lower level, or from a central government to a local government The majority of people in the region are in favour of devolution. Referendum (n) – a vote in which all the people in a country or an area are asked to give their opinion about or decide an important political or social question We will hold a referendum on independence next year — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/thinking-english/message Support this podcast: https://anchor.fm/thinking-english/support
  1. 189. Why is Scotland in the UK? (English Vocabulary Lesson)
  2. I Moved Country (Again)!!
  3. 188. Should We Boycott the Qatar World Cup? (English Vocabulary Lesson)
  4. 187. Who is Elon Musk? (English Vocabulary Lesson)
  5. 186. What is Thanksgiving?: The REAL Story Behind America’s Most Famous Holiday (English Vocabulary Lesson)


Advertisements

Do you want to Think in English?

I’m so excited that you found my blog and podcast!! If you don’t want to miss an article or an episode, you can subscribe to my page!


Never miss an episode

Subscribe wherever you enjoy podcasts:

Advertisements
Advertisements

2 responses to “169. There Is No Such Thing As A Fish… (English Vocabulary Lesson)”

  1. Hi Tom,

    I am your podcast lover in Japan and currious about the English club. But isn’t it impossible to be a subscriber or member from Japan?
    I would be happy if I could hear from you.

    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great Podcast !!! Thanks Tom.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to deandrahanania Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: