Skull Assignment


In order to better appreciate the complex mechanics of bony fishes’ skulls, you are required to disarticulate and recompose a fish skull. It is recommended that students work on this project in groups of two or four (no more). You will first need to obtain a fish head; the best ways to do this are to go fishing, to the harbor, or to the fish market and pick a fish head. From previous experience, the bigger the head, the easier it is to reassemble. Also, some species are particularly difficult, including Salmon, Trout, Catfish, and Carp. I ask you not to pick any of these four. Difficult but interesting: Rockfish. Real easy: None.

Once you have a fish head, you’ll need to break down the flesh so you are left with only bones. The best way to do this is to boil the head, but you must do so very carefully. Be very attentive, and take pictures during the process so that you remember where each bone belongs.

You’ll then need to let the bones thoroughly dry, and then glue them together as they were assembled in the living fish’s head. Super glue, hot glue, and gorilla glue are some good options.

You will then need to draw the skull.  The left side of the skull needs to be drawn, so if two people are drawing at the same time, they still need to be on the same side of the skull, NOT place the skull between them and have each draw one side.  What I want to see is the skull that you have reconstructed, not an ideal skull.  There are books for that, so I don’t need to see that.  Try not to “stylize” your drawing, very few bones have perfect straight lines, very few bones look like perfect rectangles, just draw what you see.

Then you will label each bone ON YOUR DRAWING, no need to label the skull (it is not easy and often a messy result ensues).

The skull will get a single grade (everybody gets the same grade for the skull of their own group) each drawing gets its own grade, so people in the same group may get a different overall grade.

Chapter 3 of the lab manual by Caillet, Love & Epling is a great resource for this process. Please talk to one of the instructors as early as possible if you are having any trouble with the assignment! We might have a book that includes an illustration of the skull of the species you are working on.

This video, made by a former Bio 127 student, is also a very good resource.

Great resource: the skull Book!