fin, organ of locomotion characteristic of fish and consisting of thin tissue supported by cartilaginous or bony rays. In some fish, e.g., the eel, a single fin extends from the back, around the tail, and along the ventral surface. In the majority of fishes, however, there are one, two, or three dorsal fins, a distinct tail fin, and an anal fin. These are called median, or unpaired, fins. In addition to these unpaired fins, most fish also have paired fins. These are the pectoral fins, placed just back of the gills, and the pelvic, or ventral, fins, variable in position and sometimes lacking entirely. The tail is an important organ of locomotion and the paired fins are used for steering, checking speed, balancing, and for slow movements. An adipose fin (fatty tissue without support) is found behind the dorsal fin in some fish, e.g., the salmon and the catfish. See climbing perch; flying fish.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.