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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)


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