Friends, I’d like to share a new writing project I’ve started, called Better Know a Fish!
Ever since my very first pet fish (two swordtails and tiger barbs in a large jar… no they did not live long), I’ve been a huge fan of our finned friends. I admire the freedom that fish have as they swim and maneuver underwater, as if weightless. I’m fascinated by their tremendous diversity, and their contributions to our own species and society — even if they are frequently overlooked in favor of things feathered and furred.
As I write in the blog’s introduction, “Why Get to Know a Fish?”:
I love fish. I eat them. I cook them. I catch them. I like looking at them in aquariums. In museum pickle jars. Swimming with them underwater. I think baby ones are cute. Big ones with sharp teeth scare the daylights out of me. The sudden jolt of one at the end of your fishing line is an electrifying and somber connection to a living creature.
Maybe you don’t feel that way about fish. But certainly, there are many things you might come to appreciate about these marvelous animals.
What I hope to do here is to help everyone explore and learn about the amazing diversity of fish out there. They come in so many surprising shapes, colors, sizes and with unbelievable behaviors — like parental care — to incredible physical structures. And they are one of the few wild creatures where we can keep in our homes with little or no domestication, and one of the few animal meats we still harvest directly from nature and eat in surprising varieties — unlike the mundanely singular categories of chicken/pig/cow.
Fish, indeed, are our friends. They have been a critical part of human nutrition, economies, cultures and knowledge since our start.
So let’s take a tour of the amazing biodiversity of fishes out there. One pretty picture at a time. And the crazy weird pictures, too.
At the least, it’ll make you smile at seeing something beautiful or strange. At the most, you learn something new about the natural world, and it sparks some inner peace that makes you long for a chance to reconnect with nature.
A few tips of my hat: Like many scientists and science writers, I bow in awe to Sir David Attenborough and his enormous impact on natural history and biodiversity narratives. I saw that maybe the blogosphere could still use a blog on fish biodiversity, in a format that reminded me of old Attenborough programs and pictured field guides I grew up with and loved. Plus, it’s shaped up to be a great way for me to keep up with fun discoveries and little-known facts about my favorite animals.
Secondly, I will give a nod to Darren Naish, whose Tetrapod Zoology blog I’ve long admired. I enjoy his mix of detailed examinations through cited scientific literature, while injecting his personal voice and experience. While I am not a currently practicing scientist and am not attempting to come off as one, I want to follow Darren’s example and highlight published findings wherever possible — while keeping it fun and relatable to just about anyone.
And one more thing. While I call it a “science blog” in the headline, I see this as more than that. I’d like to think that fish — and really any scientific topic — is more than just “science”. Science is everywhere and in every facet of our lives. Fish are a pretty good example of that, and I’ll try to reflect these myriad perspectives in my stories.
So here we go. I hope I can keep with it, and I’m sure the blog will evolve as we meander about and work through the occasional hurdle. If time allows, I hope to weave some interviews into the posts, and invite some guest writers as well.
I’d be honored if you head over to Better Know a Fish and check things out. Thanks!
— Ben Young Landis