Salmon Anatomy: From Head to Tail (External)

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salmon anatomyNostril: Salmon have a well developed sense of smell, which they use to find food, avoid predators. & find their way back to their natal streams.

Gills & Gill Covers:  The gills are the one of the most important organs of the fish’s body, and are a very efficient breathing mechanism- they can absorb up to 80% of dissolved oxygen in water, as compared to human lungs ability to extract only 25% of oxygen from air.  

Pelvic & Pectoral fins:  These are the two sets of paired fins on salmon.  They are used to help the fish balance and move around in the water.

Dorsal, adipose, anal & caudal fins: these are single fins on the salmon.  The dorsal and anal fin also aid in balance/maneuverability.  The adipose fin has no known purpose, it is small and fleshy. 

Caudal fin: Also known as the tail, this fin acts as the fish’s method of propulsion, its rudder and also aids females in the digging of their redds, where they will deposit their eggs.

Lateral line: the lateral line on the salmon can detect low to medium frequency sounds in the water, which makes them aware of where other fish or predators are in the water.

teaching tool

For more information and curricula on this topic, check out ADFG’s Salmon Dissection Guide


Move on to learn about the Salmon Life Cycle