Overview

Brief Summary

Flying fish, family Exocoetidae, are a diverse group of about 60+ fish in 7 genera (some classifications claim up to 9 genera). These mainly pelagic marine fish are widespread and abundant in the tropical and subtropical areas of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans. Flying fish primarily eat zooplankton, and are in turn an important food source for many marine predators including dolphinfishes, tunas, billfishes, cetaceans, as well as pelagic seabirds. Although they can’t actually fly, they are well known for their enlarged pectoral fins (“wings”), which allow them to make gliding leaps out of the water, a behavior believed to help them escape predation. Some species of flying fish have enlarged pelvic fins as well as enlarged pectoral fins, which allows them to fly further than two winged gliders (up to 400 meters), and have far greater maneuverability. A recent molecular phylogenetic analysis of the flying fish supports previous hypotheses that the evolution of four-winged gliding evolved once from a two-winged ancestor, perhaps in a three-step progression of gliding abilities (Lewallen et al 2011; Kutschera 2005). Flying fish have evolved a diversity of reproductive and life histories strategies: some lay their eggs in the open ocean, and have buoyant eggs that float on the ocean surface or non-buoyant eggs that have stringy filaments which get wound up in floating debris, others spend their lives in coastal areas, or return to coastal areas to breed; the different species also show a great diversity in how wide a range they occupy.

Flying fish fuel important commercial fisheries in Asia and are also commonly fished in other places, including the Caribbean. In Barbados, flying fish were threatened by pollution and overfishing, changing the occurrences of flying fish in the waters off of Barbados. This sparked a fishing controversy between Barbados, where flying fish is a traditional delicacy, and Trinidad and Tobago. As well as the fish meat, flying fish roe is commonly collected and is a common ingredient in sushi.

(Lewallen et al. 2011; Kutschera 2005; Potts et al. 2003; Wikipedia 2012)

  • Lewallen, E.A., R.L. Pitman, S.L. Kjartanson, N.R. Lovejoy, 2011. Molecular systematics of flyingfishes ( Teleostei : Exocoetidae ): evolution in the epipelagic zone. Fisheries Science Volume: 102, Issue: 1, Publisher: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Pages: 161-174.
  • Kutschera, U. 2005. Predator-driven macroevolution in flyingfishes inferred from behavioural studies: historical controversies and a hypothesis. Annals of the History and Philosophy of Biology 10: 59–77.
  • Potts, A. C., Thomas, A. D., & Nichols, E. 2003. An economic and social assessment of the flying fish (pelagic) fishery of Tobago, Trinidad and Tobago. Proceedings of the Fifty Fourth Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute, 0-635.
  • Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 11 March, 2012. “Flying fish”. Retrieved March 15, 2012 from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Flying_fish&oldid=481395284">http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Flying_fish&oldid=481395284">http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Flying_fish&oldid=481395284
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Distribution

Distribution: Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. Jaws of the same length and relatively short. Pectoral fins unusually large and can be used for gliding flights. Moreover, some species have unusually large pelvic fins giving them a four-winged appearance. Caudal fin deeply forked; the upper lobe shorter than the lower. A pair of long, flaplike whiskers in the juveniles of many species. Attains 45 cm maximum length; usually below 30 cm.
  • MASDEA (1997).
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© WoRMS for SMEBD

Source: World Register of Marine Species

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Ecology

Associations

Known predators

Exocoetidae (flying fishes) is prey of:
Gempylus serpens
Cephalopoda
Coryphaena

Based on studies in:
unknown (epipelagic zone, Tropical)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • N. V. Parin, Ichthyofauna of the Epipelagic Zone (Israel Program for Scientific Translations, Jerusalem, 1970; U.S. Department of Commerce Clearinghouse for Federal Scientific and Technical Information, Springfield, VA 22151), from p. 154.
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Known prey organisms

Exocoetidae (flying fishes) preys on:
Euphausiidae
Copepoda
Hyperiidae

Based on studies in:
unknown (epipelagic zone, Tropical)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • N. V. Parin, Ichthyofauna of the Epipelagic Zone (Israel Program for Scientific Translations, Jerusalem, 1970; U.S. Department of Commerce Clearinghouse for Federal Scientific and Technical Information, Springfield, VA 22151), from p. 154.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
Specimen Records:187
Specimens with Sequences:162
Specimens with Barcodes:159
Species:42
Species With Barcodes:37
Public Records:41
Public Species:15
Public BINs:13
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Barcode data

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Genomic DNA is available from 25 specimens with morphological vouchers housed at British Antarctic Survey and Museum Victoria, Australia and National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, Auckland and National Museums Scotland and Queen's University, Belfast and University of Tasmania
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Wikipedia

Flying fish

For other uses, see Flying fish (disambiguation).

The Exocoetidae are a family of marine fish in the order Beloniformes of class Actinopterygii. Fish of this family are known as flying fish. About 64 species are grouped in seven to nine genera. Flying fish can make powerful, self-propelled leaps out of water into air, where their long, wing-like fins enable gliding flight for considerable distances above the water's surface. This uncommon ability is a natural defense mechanism to evade predators.

The oldest known fossil of a flying or gliding fish, Potanichthys xingyiensis, dates back to the Middle Triassic, 235–242 million years ago. However, this fossil is not related to modern flying fish, which evolved independently about 66 million years ago.[1][2]

Etymology[edit]

The term Exocoetidae is not only the present scientific name for a genus of flying fish in this family, but also the general name in Latin for a flying fish. The suffix -idae, common for indicating a family, follows the root of the Latin word exocoetus, a transliteration of the Ancient Greek name ἐξώκοιτος. This means literally "sleeping outside", from ἔξω "outside" and κοῖτος "bed", "resting place",[3] so named as flying fish were believed to leave the water to sleep on the shore.[4]

Distribution and description[edit]

Flying Fish (PSF).png
Flying fish taking off

Flying fish live in all of the oceans, particularly in tropical and warm subtropical waters. They are commonly found in the epipelagic zone. This area is the top layer of the ocean that extends 200 meters from the surface down. It is often known as the “sunlight zone” because it’s where most of the visible light exists. Nearly all-primary production happens in this zone as there is enough light for photosynthesis to occur.[5] Therefore, the vast majority of plants and animals inhabit this area and can vary from plankton to the sharks. Although the epipelagic zone is an exceptional area for variety in life, it too has its drawbacks. Due to the vast variety of organisms it holds, there is high number of prey and predation relationships.[6] Small organisms such as the flying fish are targets for larger organisms. They especially have a hard time escaping predators and living until they can reproduce, resulting in them having a lower fitness.[7] Along with relationship difficulties, abiotic factors also play a part. Harsh ocean currents make it extremely difficult for small fish to survive in this habitat. In fact, prior research has suggested that difficult environmental factors in the flying fish's habitat has led to the evolution of modified fins.[8] As a result, flying fish have underwent natural selection in which species gain unique traits to better adapt to their environments. By becoming airborne flying fish have outsmarted their predators and environment. This increase of speed and maneuverability is a direct advantage to flying fish, and has given them leverage when compared to other species in their environment.

Research has shown that the flying fish has undergone morphological changes throughout its history. The first of which is fully broadened neural arches. Neural arches act as insertion sites for muscles, connective tissues, and ligaments in a fish’s skeleton. Fully broadened neural arches act as more stable and sturdier sites for these connections, creating a strong link between the vertebral column and cranium.[9] This ultimately allows a rigid and sturdy vertebral column (body) that is beneficial in flight. Having a rigid body during glided flight gives the flying fish aerodynamic advantages, increasing its speed and improving its aim.[10] Furthermore, flying fish have developed vertebral columns and ossified caudal complexes.[11] These features provide the majority of strength to the flying fish, allowing them to physically lift their body out of water and glide remarkable distances. These additions also reduce the flexibility of the flying fish, allowing them to perform powerful leaps without weakening midair.[12] At the end of a glide, it folds its pectoral fins to re-enter the sea, or drops its tail into the water to push against the water to lift itself for another glide, possibly changing direction.[13][14] The curved profile of the "wing" is comparable to the aerodynamic shape of a bird wing.[15] The fish is able to increase its time in the air by flying straight into or at an angle to the direction of updrafts created by a combination of air and ocean currents.[13][14]

Genus Exocoetus has one pair of fins and a streamlined body to optimize for speed, while Cypselurus has a flattened body and two pairs of fins, which maximize its time in the air. From 1900 to the 1930s, flying fish were studied as possible models used to develop airplanes.[14]

Exocoetidae feed mainly on plankton. Predators include dolphins, tuna, marlin, birds, squids, and porpoises.[14]

Flight measurements[edit]

In May 2008, a Japanese television crew (NHK) filmed a flying fish (dubbed "Icarfish") off the coast of Yakushima Island, Japan. The creature spent 45 seconds in flight.[16] The previous record was 42 seconds.[16]

The flights of flying fish are typically around 50 meters (160 ft),[17] though they can use updrafts at the leading edge of waves to cover distances of up to 400 m (1,300 ft).[17][18] They can travel at speeds of more than 70 km/h (43 mph).[14] Maximum altitude is 6 m (20 ft) above the surface of the sea.[15] Some accounts have them landing on ships' decks.[14][19]

Fishery and cuisine[edit]

Flying fish are commercially fished in Japan, Vietnam, and China by gillnetting, and in Indonesia and India by dipnetting.[14] Often in Japanese cuisine, the fish is preserved by drying. The roe of Cheilopogon agoo, or Japanese flying fish, is used to make some types of sushi, and is known as tobiko. It is also a staple in the diet of the Tao people of Orchid Island, Taiwan. Flying fish is part of the national dish of Barbados, cou-cou and flying fish.

In the Solomon Islands, the fish are caught while they are flying, using nets held from outrigger canoes. They are attracted to the light of torches. Fishing is done only when no moonlight is available.

Importance[edit]

Barbados[edit]

Barbados is known as "the land of the flying fish", and the fish is one of the national symbols of the country. Once abundant, it migrated between the warm, coral-filled Atlantic Ocean surrounding the island of Barbados and the plankton-rich outflows of the Orinoco River in Venezuela.

Just after the completion of the Bridgetown Harbor / Deep Water Harbor in Bridgetown, Barbados saw an increase of ship visits, linking the island to the world. The overall health of the coral reefs surrounding Barbados suffered due to ship-based pollution. Additionally, Barbadian overfishing pushed them closer to the Orinoco delta, no longer returning to Barbados in large numbers. Today, the flying fish only migrate as far north as Tobago, around 120 nmi (220 km; 140 mi) southwest of Barbados. Despite the change, flying fish remain a coveted delicacy.

Many aspects of Barbadian culture center around the flying fish: it is depicted on coins, as sculptures in fountains, in artwork, and as part of the official logo of the Barbados Tourism Authority. Additionally, the Barbadian coat of arms features a pelican and dolphin fish on either side of the shield, but the dolphin resembles a flying fish. Furthermore, actual artistic renditions and holograms of the flying fish are also present within the Barbadian passport.

Maritime disputes[edit]

For more details on this topic, see Barbados v. Trinidad and Tobago.

In recent times, flying fish have also been gaining in popularity in other islands, fueling several maritime disputes. In 2006, the council of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea[20] fixed the maritime boundaries between Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago over the flying fish dispute, which gradually raised tensions between the neighbours.[21] The ruling stated both countries must preserve stocks for the future. Barbadian fishers still follow the flying fish southward. Flying fish remain an important part of Barbados' main national dish.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Oldest flying fish fossil found in China Nature, News, 31 October 2012.
  2. ^ Xu, Guang-Hui; Li-Jun Zhao, Ke-Qin Gao and Fei-Xiang Wu (2012) A new stem-neopterygian fish from the Middle Triassic of China shows the earliest over-water gliding strategy of the vertebrates" Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, Published online before print October 31, 2012. doi:10.1098/rspb.2012.2261
  3. ^ Harper, Douglas. "exocet". Online Etymology Dictionary. 
  4. ^ Pliny's Natural History, vol. IX, 19)
  5. ^ Fish, F. E. (1990). Wing Design And Scaling Of Flying Fish With Regard To Flight Performance. Journal of Zoology, 221(3), 391-403.
  6. ^ Davenport, J. (1994). How And Why Do Flying Fish Fly?. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries, 4(2), 184-214.
  7. ^ Davenport, J. (1994). How And Why Do Flying Fish Fly?. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries, 4(2), 184-214.
  8. ^ Dasilao, J., & Yamaoka, K. (1998). Development Of The Vertebral Column And Caudal Complex In A Flyingfish,Parexocoetus Mento Mento (Teleostei: Exocoetidae). Ichthyological Research, 45(3), 303-308.
  9. ^ Dasilao, J., & Yamaoka, K. (1998). Development Of The Vertebral Column And Caudal Complex In A Flyingfish,Parexocoetus Mento Mento (Teleostei: Exocoetidae). Ichthyological Research, 45(3), 303-308.
  10. ^ Dasilao, J., & Yamaoka, K. (1998). Development Of The Vertebral Column And Caudal Complex In A Flyingfish,Parexocoetus Mento Mento (Teleostei: Exocoetidae). Ichthyological Research, 45(3), 303-308.
  11. ^ Dasilao, J. C., & Sasaki, K. (1998). Phylogeny Of The Flyingfish Family Exocoetidae (Teleostei, Beloniformes). Ichthyological Research, 45(4), 347-353.
  12. ^ Dasilao, J. C., & Sasaki, K. (1998). Phylogeny Of The Flyingfish Family Exocoetidae (Teleostei, Beloniformes). Ichthyological Research, 45(4), 347-353.
  13. ^ a b Fish, F. E. (1990). "Wing design and scaling of flying fish with regard to flight performance" (PDF). Journal of Zoology 221 (3): 391–403. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1990.tb04009.x. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f g Kutschera, U. (2005). "Predator-driven macroevolution in flyingfishes inferred from behavioural studies: historical controversies and a hypothesis" (PDF). Annals of the History and Philosophy of Biology 10: 59–77. 
  15. ^ a b Fish, F. (1991). "On a fin and a prayer" (PDF). Scholars 3 (1): 4–7. 
  16. ^ a b "Fast flying fish glides by ferry". BBC News. May 20, 2008. Retrieved May 20, 2008. 
  17. ^ a b Ross Piper (2007), Extraordinary Animals: An Encyclopedia of Curious and Unusual Animals, Greenwood Press.
  18. ^ Flying Fish, Exocoetidae National Geographic. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
  19. ^ Joseph Banks (1997). The Endeavour Journal of Sir Joseph Banks 1768–1771. University of Sydney Library. Retrieved July 16, 2009. 
  20. ^ "Barbados/Trinidad and Tobago". Permanent Court of Arbitration. April 11, 2006. 
  21. ^ "Claims of Caribbean piracy as national symbol takes flight". The Sydney Morning Herald. December 18, 2004. 
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