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Flying Fish

August 22, 2013

By Gabriela Hogue

Flying Fish

A flying fish using its tail to further its glide.

Steaming towards our first station in Norfolk Canyon we were treated to a fireworks display of flying fish. As the bow cut through the water and spotted dolphins frolicked in the waves of the boat, flying fish began gliding just above the surface of the water in order to get out of the way. They can propel themselves out of the water and use their wing-like fins to glide through the air. Researchers have discovered that they can travel up to 400 m and the longest glide was measured at 45 seconds. A typical flight is about 50 meters. At the end of their glide, they either fold their pectoral fins in order to reenter the ocean or they drop their deeply forked caudal fin (tail) into the water to push against the water for another lift for more gliding.

So, what are flying fish? They are in the family Exocoetidae and can be found in all the oceans, especially in tropical and subtropical waters. Within the family, there are 60+ different species, in 7-9 different genera (these numbers depend on who you talk to). There is a lot of diversity in the reproductive strategies within this family. Some species have buoyant eggs which they lay in the open ocean to float along the surface. Other species also lay their eggs in the open ocean but the eggs have stringy filaments which get wound up in floating debris (like sargassum). Others spend their entire lives in coastal areas, or return to coastal areas to reproduce. Flying fish primarily eat zooplankton, and are in turn an important food source for many marine predators. They are also an important commercial fish in Asia. Along with their meat, their roe is collected and used in sushi.

A gliding flying fish is a beautiful thing to behold. Cruising right above the water and using the air currents and their caudal fins to glide farther and farther, it’s no wonder that in the early 1900’s, flying fish were studied as possible models used to develop airplanes.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 22, 2013 9:10 pm

    Oh how I enjoyed today’s lesson about flying fish and the trail left behind in the photo was the perfect illustration to your comments about using the caudal fin! Thank you!!!

  2. Kyle Hogue permalink
    August 23, 2013 12:58 am

    How interesting. I find the distance of travel above the water amazing. The photo provided an excellent illustration of the flying fish in action. It must be quit thrilling to see these events unfolding before your very eyes in real time.

  3. Jennifer Wise permalink
    August 23, 2013 1:26 pm

    Dacia, thanks for taking us on this experience with you. Yesterday I was wondering just how big the ship is and lots of things becase I get so motion sick. Hope you do bypass that, but I still enjoyed the tour of the ship.

    Today I read the flying fish info to Steve. Have to tell TC about it as he loves fishing and learning about the fish. Will check in again tomorrow.

    • lizbaird permalink
      August 23, 2013 8:30 pm

      Hi Jennifer
      Dacia says the ship is 187 feet long which is bigger than any other boat she has been on. she is taking lots of precautions to avoid seasickness, including a patch and staying well hydrated.

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