"World Without Fish" by Mark Kurlansky, Introduction and Chapter 1

In this book, Mark Kurlansky explores threats to the world's oceans and fish populations and describes ways that young people can support sustainable fishing.

Here are links to our lists for the book: Introduction and Chapter 1, Chapters 2-4, Chapters 5-8, Chapters 9-11
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Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. mammal
    a warm-blooded vertebrate having the skin covered with hair
    If this happens, many other fish that depend on these fish will also be in trouble....So will mammals that eat fish, such a whales, porpoises, and seals.
  2. generation
    all the people living at the same time or of the same age
    And so you have more opportunities and more responsibilities than any other generation in history.
  3. species
    taxonomic group whose members can interbreed
    In his book, Darwin explained the order of nature as a system in which all the many various plant and animal species struggle for survival.
  4. dominate
    be larger in number, quantity, power, status or importance
    He did not see nature as particularly nice or kind, but as a cruel system in which species attempt to kill and dominate other species in order to secure the survival of their own kind.
  5. vertebrate
    animals having a bony or cartilaginous skeleton
    They also belong to the same phylum, which is vertebrates (animals with spines).
  6. voracious
    devouring or craving food in great quantities
    They hunt voraciously the species living directly over and beneath them, and have white flesh greatly favored by Homo sapiens.
  7. biodiversity
    the diversity of plant and animal life in a habitat
    In science, it is known that life depends on a large variety. This is known as biodiversity.
  8. organism
    a living thing that can act or function independently
    So it is not surprising that we humans have the greatest affection for organisms that are biologically close to us.
  9. variation
    an organism that has characteristics resulting from mutation
    Darwin's great contribution was to understand that in the struggle for survival, nature puts out variations: the species that successfully adapt through the use of variations survive, and the others become extinct.
  10. extinct
    no longer in existence
    Darwin's great contribution was to understand that in the struggle for survival, nature puts out variations: the species that successfully adapt through the use of variations survive, and the others become extinct.
  11. abundant
    present in great quantity
    Species moved into and out of areas, there were changes in weather, some species were eliminated and others became extremely abundant.
  12. minuscule
    very small
    Each shift, sometimes as minuscule as a shift in the wind, day by day—even hour by hour—changed the order of nature.
  13. evolution
    sequence of events involved in the development of a species
    It is out of this process, known as evolution, that monkeys eventually developed into human beings.
  14. marine
    of or relating to the sea
    Though Darwin wrote only a little about the sea, marine life is linked in the same system as all life on Earth.
  15. unforeseen
    not anticipated
    Even the smallest changes can have unforeseen results that are extremely difficult to change back.
  16. commercial
    connected with or engaged in the exchange of goods
    But commercial extinction, which is when there are so few of a particular kind of fish that it is no longer profitable to fish for them is increasingly common.
  17. translucent
    allowing light to pass through diffusely
    Coral reefs are made up of coral polyps, tiny, soft-bodied translucent animals related to sea anemones and jellyfish.
  18. colony
    a group of organisms of the same type living together
    When the polyps attach themselves to rocks on the seafloor, they reproduce by dividing and growing, connecting to one another to create a colony that acts as a single organism.
  19. exposition
    a systematic interpretation or explanation of a topic
    Chapter One: Being a short exposition about what could happen and how it would happen
  20. cataclysm
    a sudden violent change in the earth's surface
    Nevertheless, considering overfishing, pollution, and global warming, the entire system of ocean life could completely unravel within a relatively short time—and then we would be helpless spectators to a cataclysm.
  21. genetic
    relating to the study of heredity and variation in organisms
    They are also the neediest species, more fragile than the less evolved species that have managed to survive for millions of years with few, if any, genetic changes.
  22. predator
    any animal that lives by preying on other animals
    Schools of tuna are known to swim near or alongside dolphins for protection against predators, such as sharks.
  23. primitive
    characteristic of an earlier ancestral type
    (Elephants might last longer, however, because they feed on squid, a primitive invertebrate that would survive the rapid extinction of marine life.)
  24. scarcity
    a small and inadequate amount
    Some of the most highly evolved tropical seabirds seem peculiarly build for a world with a scarcity of prey.
  25. tropical
    relating to part of the Earth's surface with hot climate
    Tropical seabirds fly great distances in search of prey.
  26. disgorge
    eject the contents of the stomach through the mouth
    They're graceful fliers—but very awkward on land—that would probably survive for a while because, though much of their food consists of fish (they harass gulls and other birds to disgorge their meals). they also eat jellyfish.
  27. endemic
    native to or confined to a certain region
    This species of petrel, endemic to Chile, is now on several endangered watch lists.
  28. plankton
    aggregate of small organisms that float or drift in water
    The total population of plankton and krill is already the largest mass of protein in the world today.
  29. phylum
    the major taxonomic group of animals and plants
    We don't think much of jellyfish because, like insects, they are not even in our phylum.
  30. tentacle
    an elongated tactile or prehensile flexible organ
    A jellyfish eats by stinging its prey with tentacles and then feeding it into its floating belly, which acts as a kind of pump that gives it the ability to travel through water.
  31. prehistoric
    belonging to or existing before recorded times
    As evolution reversed itself, worse things than jellyfish would flourish, including prehistoric bacteria.
  32. plague
    annoy continually or chronically
    Already, little-known prehistoric organisms have emerged in nearly a dozen places around the globe—bacteria that prospered 2.7 billion years ago have been plaguing fishermen in recent years in the form of hairy-looking growths that constrict the throat, making breathing difficult and causing severe welts on the skin.
  33. welt
    a raised mark on the skin
    Already, little-known prehistoric organisms have emerged in nearly a dozen places around the globe—bacteria that prospered 2.7 billion years ago have been plaguing fishermen in recent years in the form of hairy-looking growths that constrict the throat, making breathing difficult and causing severe welts on the skin.
  34. impact
    have an effect upon
    And this would eventually impact land-based mammals, including us.
  35. predicament
    an unpleasant or difficult situation
    But before we know what to change and how to change it, we need to understand how we got into this predicament in the first place.

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