World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Fish scale

Article Id: WHEBN0026895290
Reproduction Date:

Title: Fish scale  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Estimating the age of fish, Black goby, Diversity of fish, Ichthyoplankton, Kosher animals
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Fish scale

Cycloid scales cover these teleost fish (rohu)

The skin of most bony and cartilaginous fishes is covered by scales. Scales vary enormously in size, shape, structure, and extent, ranging from strong and rigid armour plates in fishes such as shrimpfishes and boxfishes, to microscopic or absent in fishes such as eels and anglerfishes. The morphology of a scale can be used to identify the species of fish it came from.

The principal types of scales are the cycloid scales of salmon and carp, the ctenoid scales of perch, the placoid scales of sharks and rays, the ganoid scales of sturgeons and gars. Fish scales are produced from the mesoderm layer of the dermis, which distinguishes them from reptile scales. The same genes involved in tooth and hair development in mammals are also involved in scale development.[1]


Fish, along with reptiles, have hard protective scales on their skin for protection. The outer body of many fish is covered with scales, which are part of the fish's integumentary system. The scales originate from the mesoderm. It has been suggested that they are similar in structure to teeth, but they probably originate from different tissue.[2] Some species are covered instead by scutes. Others have no outer covering on the skin. Most fish are covered in a protective layer of slime (mucus).


Leptoid scales

Scale types
Poropuntius huguenini is a cyprinoid with smooth cycloid scales
This dottyback is a perch-like fish with rough ctenoid scales
Cartilaginous fishes, like this tiger shark, have placoid scales
Lobe-finned fishes, like this preserved coelacanth, have elasmoid scales
The longnose gar has diamond-shape ganoid scales

Leptoid scales are found on higher-order bony fish, the teleosts (the more derived clade of ray-finned fishes). As they grow they add concentric layers. They are arranged so as to overlap in a head-to-tail direction, like roof tiles, allowing a smoother flow of water over the body and thereby reducing drag. Leptoid scales come in two forms: cycloid and ctenoid.

  • Cycloid scales have a smooth texture and are uniform with a smooth outer edge or margin. They are most common on fish with soft fin rays, such as salmon, banded killifish, and carp.
  • Ctenoid scales have a rough texture with a toothed outer or posterior edge with tiny teeth called ctenii. They are usually found on fish with spiny fin rays, such as the perch-like fishes. These scales contain almost no bone, being composed of a surface layer containing hydroxyapatite and calcium carbonate, and a deeper layer composed of mostly collagen. The enamel of the other scale types is reduced to superficial ridges and ctenii.
Ctenoid scales can be further subdivided into three types:
    • Crenate scales: where the margin of the scale bears indentations and projections.
    • Spinoid scales: where the scale bears spines that are continuous with the scale itself.
    • True ctenoid scales: where the spines on the scale are distinct structures.

Both cycloid and ctenoid scales are overlapping, making them more flexible than cosmoid and ganoid scales. They grow in size through additions to the margin, creating bands of uneven seasonal growth called annuli (singluar annulus). These bands can be used to age the fish.

Most ray-finned fishes have ctenoid scales. In flatfishes, some species have ctenoid scales on the eyed side and cycloid scales on the blind side, while other species have ctenoid scales in males and cycloid scales in females.

Placoid scales

Placoid scales are found in the enamel-like substance. Placoid scales cannot grow in size, but rather more scales are added as the fish increases in size.

Similar scales can also be found under the head of the denticle herring.

Sharks are entirely covered by placoid scales. This is what we think of as "shark skin". These scales create tiny vortices that reduce drag, which makes swimming more efficient, as well as quieter compared to bony fishes. The amount of scale coverage is much less in rays and chimaeras. The rough, sandpaper-like texture of shark and ray skin, coupled with its toughness, has led it to be valued as a source of rawhide leather, called shagreen. One of the many historical applications of shark shagreen was in making hand-grips for swords.

Unlike bony fish, sharks have a complex dermal corset made of flexible collagenous fibers and arranged as a helical network surrounding their body. This works as an outer skeleton, providing attachment for their swimming muscles and thus saving energy.[3] Their dermal teeth give them hydrodynamic advantages as they reduce turbulence when swimming.[4]

Elasmoid scales

Elasmoid scales are thin, imbricated scales composed of a layer of dense, lamellar bone called isopedine, above which is a layer of tubercles usually composed of bone, as in Eusthenopteron. The layer of dentine that was present in the first sarcopterygians is usually reduced, as in the extant coelacanth, or entirely absent, as in extant lungfish and in the Devonian Eusthenopteron.[5] Elasmoid scales appeared several times. They are present in some lobe-finned fishes: coelacanths, all extant and some extinct lungfishes, some tetrapodomorphs like Eusthenopteron, amiids, and teleosts, whose cycloid and ctenoid scales represent the least mineralized elasmoid scales.

Cosmoid scales

Cosmoid scales are found in several ancient lobe-finned fishes, including some of the earliest lungfishes, and were probably derived from a fusion of placoid scales. They are composed of a layer of dense, lamellar bone called isopedine, above which is a layer of spongy bone supplied with blood vessels. The bone layers are covered by a complex dentine layer called cosmine and a superficial outer coating of vitrodentine. Cosmoid scales increase in size through the growth of the lamellar bone layer.

Ganoid scales

Ganoid scales of the Carboniferous fish, Amblypterus striatus. (a) shows the outer surface of four of the scales, and (b) shows the inner surface of two of the scales. Each of the rhomboidal ganoid scales of Amblypterus has a ridge on the inner surface which is produced at one end into a projecting peg which fits into a notch in the next scale, similar to the manner in which tiles are pegged together on the roof of a house.

Ganoid scales are found in the ganoine in place of vitrodentine. Most are diamond-shaped and connected by peg-and-socket joints. In sturgeons, the scales are greatly enlarged into armour plates along the sides and back, while in the bowfin the scales are greatly reduced in thickness to resemble cycloid scales (see above).


A scute is another, less common, type of scale. Scute comes from Latin for shield, and can take the form of:

  • an external shield-like bony plate, or
  • a modified, thickened scale that often is keeled or spiny, or
  • a projecting, modified (rough and strongly ridged) scale, usually associated with the lateral line, or on the caudal peduncle forming caudal keels, or along the ventral profile.

Some fish, such as pineconefish, are completely or partially covered in scutes. River herrings and threadfins have an abdominal row of scutes, which are scales with raised, sharp points that are used for protection. Some jacks have a row of scutes following the lateral line on either side.

Left to right: denticles of Paralogania (?), Shielia taiti, Lanarkia horrida

Thelodont scales

The bony scales of [6]

Bone, being one of the most resistant materials to the process of fossilisation, often preserves internal detail, which allows the histology and growth of the scales to be studied in detail. The scales comprise a non-growing "crown" composed of dentine, with a sometimes-ornamented enameloid upper surface and an aspidine base.[7] Its growing base is made of cell-free bone, which sometimes developed anchorage structures to fix it in the side of the fish.[8] Beyond that, there appear to be five types of bone-growth, which may represent five natural groupings within the thelodonts—or a spectrum ranging between the end members meta- (or ortho-) dentine and mesodentine tissues.[9] Interestingly, each of the five scale morphs appears to resemble the scales of more derived groupings of fish, suggesting that thelodont groups may have been stem groups to succeeding clades of fish.[8]

However, using scale morphology alone to distinguish species has some pitfalls. Within each organism, scale shape varies hugely according to body area,[10] with intermediate forms appearing between different areas—and to make matters worse, scale morphology may not even be constant within one area. To confuse things further, scale morphologies are not unique to taxa, and may be indistinguishable on the same area of two different species.[11]

The morphology and histology of the lodonts provides the main tool for quantifying their diversity and distinguishing between species, although ultimately using such convergent traits is prone to errors. Nonetheless, a framework comprising three groups has been proposed based upon scale morphology and histology.[9]


The cycloid scales of a common roach. The series of lateral line scales is visible in the lower half of the image.

Different groups of fish have evolved a number of modified scales to serve various functions.

Many groups of bony fishes, including pipefishes and seahorses, several families of catfishes, sticklebacks, and poachers, have developed external bony plates, structurally resembling placoid scales, as protective armour. In the boxfishes, the plates are all fused together to form a rigid shell enclosing the entire body. Yet these bony plates are not modified scales, but skin that has been ossified.

See also


  1. ^ Sharpe, P. T. (2001). "Fish scale development: Hair today, teeth and scales yesterday?". Current Biology 11 (18): R751–R752.  
  2. ^ The First False Teeth
  3. ^ Martin, R. Aidan. "The Importance of Being Cartilaginous". ReefQuest Centre for Shark Research. Retrieved 2009-08-29. 
  4. ^ Martin, R. Aidan. "Skin of the Teeth". Retrieved 2007-08-28. 
  5. ^ Zylberberg, L., Meunier, F.J., Laurin, M. (2010). , Acta Palaeontologica PolonicaEusthenopteron foordiA microanatomical and histological study of the postcranial dermal skeleton in the Devonian sarcopterygian 55: 459–470.
  6. ^ Turner, S.; Tarling, D. H. (1982). "Thelodont and other agnathan distributions as tests of Lower Paleozoic continental reconstructions".  
  7. ^ Märss, T. (2006). "Exoskeletal ultrasculpture of early vertebrates".  
  8. ^ a b Janvier, Philippe (1998). "Early vertebrates and their extant relatives". Early Vertebrates.  
  9. ^ a b Turner, S. (1991). "Monophyly and interrelationships of the Thelodonti". In M. M. Chang, Y. H. Liu & G. R. Zhang. Early Vertebrates and Related Problems of Evolutionary Biology. Science Press, Beijing. pp. 87–119. 
  10. ^ Märss, T. (1986). "Squamation of the thelodont agnathan Phlebolepis".  
  11. ^ Botella, H.; J. I. Valenzuela-Rios & P. Carls (2006). "A New Early Devonian thelodont from Celtiberia (Spain), with a revision of Spanish thelodonts".  

Further reading

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.