Flying Fish

Image by Tom O'Brien

Image by Tom O’Brien

Flying fish shortly after take-off

Flying fish shortly after take-off (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Flyingfishes are oceanic species often seen skittering near boats. They leave the water primarily to escape from larger fish such as tunas and mackerel which feed on them. The flying fish does not actually fly. It taxis along the surface of the water vibrating its tail, then it uses the wing-like fins to glide upward and skim across the surface, dropping down when its momentum is exhausted. Often, it takes to the air a second or third time without re-entering the water. Some species have the two enlarged pectoral fins, others have both pectoral and pelvic fins developed like wings for flight. The former are known as two-winged and the latter four-winged flyingfishes. It is estimated that the longest flight may be as far as 660 ft (200 m) and if they come flying out of a big wave, maybe even further. Flying away, however, may not always be the best escape from predators. Sometimes they may be eaten by savvy, natural fliers – birds.

Flyingfishes inhabit both Atlantic and Pacific waters in warmer regions. They deposit their eggs in kelp beds or attach them to any floating object. They are not all that big with most species averaging 7 in (18 cm) to 12 in (30.5 cm) in length. Another interesting trait is that they seem to be attracted to lights at nighttime.