Flying fish: where they live, species, curiosities and images

With the great biodiversity that the marine environment harbors, it was not for less that it offered us something as curious as a fish that has the ability to fly over the waters of seas and oceans. That’s right, fish that can get out of the water and fly do exist, hence the name they get for flying fish. Very curious, right?

What are flying fish and where do they live?

Belonging to the exoketid fish family ( Exocoteidae ) , there are currently about 70 species of flying fish . These fish are found startling the warm waters of seas and oceans around the world. These fish are considered to have evolved by developing particular morphological characteristics that have allowed them to acquire this ability to glide in order to escape from their many predators, such as tuna, mackerel, swordfish and other large fish. However, leaving the water also entails exposure to other predators, such as birds.

Flying fish characteristics

Regarding their morphology, flying fish measure an average of between 17 and 30 centimeters and the shape of their body in the form of an aerodynamic torpedo stands out , which makes it easier for them to reach high speeds. In general, two types of flying fish are distinguished, based on the development of their fins.

  • Two-winged flying fish: there are species with very large and developed pectoral fins.
  • Four-winged flying fish: characterized by having two pectoral fins and two very enlarged and long pelvic fins.

These fish generally keep their long fins folded along their body while swimming. All have their forked tail of irregular shape and with the lower lobe longer than the upper one. In addition, this type of fish has flat eyes which help them to see out of the water .

Where do flying fish live

Due to their characteristics, flying fish are found living shallow , near the surface, and in waters far from the coast . Although these species are found in various regions, they are typical of temperate and warm waters , found mainly in tropical and subtropical waters, especially in areas of the Caribbean, but they are also found in the Mediterranean Sea and in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. Although they are typical species of the open ocean, some species live in the outer areas of coral reefs. They can feed on a variety of foods, with plankton being the main component of the diet, although they can sometimes also feed on small crustaceans.

Before continuing to delve into these curious species, we encourage you to learn more about fish with these other articles about the Classification of fish and How fish breathe . Another characteristic of flying fish is that, although they can glide on water and spend a few moments in the air, they breathe underwater and not in the air.

The flying fish species are grouped into 7 genera :

  • Cheilopogon
  • Cypselurus
  • Exocoetus
  • Fodiator
  • Hirundichthys 
  • Parexocoetus 
  • Prognichthys 

Within these genera, the most common species of flying fish is Exocoetus volitans (or tropical flying fish) ; With a length of up to 50 cm, this species usually frequents the tropical waters near Florida, Cuba or Costa Rica, at a maximum depth of 20 meters. They are also common :

  • Cypselurus furcatus
  • Cypselurus californicus
  • Fodiator acutus 
  • Cypselurus cyanopterus
  • Danichtyhys rondeletii 
  • Hirundichthys affinis 

Flying fish curiosities

Knowing already several characteristics of these aquatic animals, we are going to comment on some other curiosities of flying fish :

How Flying Fish Fly

Despite their name, in reality, flying fish do not fly as such, but instead glide in the air after propelling themselves at full speed out of the water. Still, have you ever wondered how flying fish fly? The planning process is complex given its size and is not limited to a simple jump out of the water. In order to take flight and glide, flying fish first need to reach a very high speed underwater, up to about 60 kilometers per hour. In the direction of the surface, the flying fish propel themselves out of the water and spread their fins like wings as they pass the surface of the water, while they flap their tails still in the water to give them more momentum. In the image below you can see this movement.

How many meters can a flying fish fly

Once in the air, they can reach a meter in height and even exceed it, and plan distances up to 200 meters at a speed of 16 kilometers per hour. This is a considerable distance considering that they do not have wings, but that they achieve by shaking the tail fin up to more than 50 times per second. When they approach the surface again, the flying fish can flap their tails to continue flying without completely returning to the water, being able to extend their flight to distances of 400 meters thanks to these successive glides.

How long can flying fish be flying?

This is one of the most common doubts when knowing that they are fish that can go through the air at the surface of the water, but they need to be in the water to breathe. The truth is that it has been seen that they can plan for 45 seconds.

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