Methods of reproduction are varied. Sharks have internal fertilization, and most give birth to live young. Those that lay eggs produce large ones with tough shells. Since embryonic development is well-protected in these fish, they produce a relatively small number of young, only seven or eight at a time in some species. A few of the bony fishes, including some aquarium species, are live bearers, but most lay small, unprotected eggs that are fertilized after deposition in water. In most marine species the eggs float freely in the currents, where they are eaten by other animals. An enormous number of eggs is therefore necessary to ensure the maturation of a few; in many species a female produces as many as 5 million eggs in one spawn. The eggs of most marine fishes contain oil droplets that buoy them up, while those of most freshwater fishes are heavy, with sticky surfaces that adhere to objects in the water. Most freshwater species build nests for the protection of the eggs, and in some the adults guard the nests.

Sections in this article:

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Vertebrate Zoology