Glide and Glimmer: The Spectacular Flight of Flying Fish

Flying fish are classified into around forty species, all of which have long, broad pectoral fins on either side of their bodies and a cigar-like form. In general, flying fish are divided into two groups: “two-wingers,” which have two huge pectoral fins that make up the majority of their flying “lift” surface, and “four-wingers,” which have two enormous pelvic fins in addition to their two long pectoral fins.

All flying fish have an asymmetrical, vertically forked tail (called a hypocercal form), which resembles a boat’s rudder due to vertebrae reaching into the longer, bottom lobe of the fork. According to a 1967 study that was published in the magazine Nature, fish’s eyes, in particular the cornea (the pyramid-shaped barrier that shields their eyes), have evolved to allow the fish to see both underwater and above.

A report published by the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency states that flying fish are not choosy eaters; they primarily consume fish and small crustaceans.

Species

There are about forty species in the flying fish family, distributed over about seven genera. Here is a short list of a handful of them. Below are further images of the Gurnard flying fish and the Yellow-wind.

Blue Flying Fish: This species, also called the tropical two-wing flying fish, is widespread in the tropical waters of the Atlantic and Pacific. The stomach is silvery-white in hue, while the upper half of the body is an iridescent blue.

Black Wing Flying Fish:  Additionally, the majority of the tropical Atlantic and Pacific are home to this species. Its upper half, which contrasts with the white lower half, is a deep blue, nearly purple hue.

Four-wing Flying Fish: This species, as its name implies, has four “wings” as opposed to two. The Caribbean nations of Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago formerly engaged in a fight over the commercial rights to this type of fish due to its significance.

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Flying Fish Appearance

The flying fish resembles a sardine somewhat, but not quite like a cod. Its scales are blue or silvery, and its tail is forked vertically. Its body is long and fashioned like a torpedo. The characteristic that allows them to glide through the air, the wing-like pectoral fins near the head, is by far the most noticeable.

A second set of “wings,” which are actually just modified pelvic fins, are also present in certain species. The medium-sized fish never grows larger than two pounds and can range in length from six to twenty inches.

Distribution, Population, and Habitat

These fish can be found up to a depth of around 650 feet in all three of the world’s major oceans: the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian. The majority of species are typically found in tropical and subtropical waters. They are extremely uncommon in the north where the lower temperatures seem to impair the muscle function required for them to glide through the air.

The flying fish is the national symbol of Barbados since it is so prevalent throughout the Caribbean. The population appears to be very high and stable, despite occasional popularity in the commercial fishing industry. The IUCN Red List lists almost all species as least concern. Not many are at risk.

Flying Fish Predators and Prey

In many tropical marine settings across the world, flying fish play a crucial role in the food chain. Higher up the food chain, they supply larger predators with nutrients that they obtain from smaller prey. Marlins, tuna, squid, porpoises, birds, and humans all feed on this fish. Due to their omnivorous nature, they mostly eat plankton, but they occasionally also eat fish and tiny crustaceans.

Reproduction and Lifespan

These fish will assemble in their millions each year during the breeding season. This takes place near the surface of the open ocean. People can eat the eggs as edible roe, which the male needs to fertilize hundreds of eggs that the female would release into the ocean. She will next attach her fertilized eggs to a piece of floating rubbish or seaweed using a sticky filament.

The fish are born with whiskers close to their mouths to help them blend in with the plants after a few days. They are essentially left to fend for themselves from the moment of birth, and many will eventually perish at the hands of predators. When they grow to be approximately two inches long, they may take to the air. These fish have an estimated five-year lifespan on average.

Fishing and Cooking

It’s thought that flying fish make a really tasty supper. It’s widely caught for commercial purposes in the Asia-Pacific area and portions of the Caribbean. Gillnetting, which uses vertical nets suspended on a line, and dipnetting, which uses a big scoop secured with a hoop, are the two most popular fishing techniques.

The fish can be steamed, fried, or even turned into sushi. They are believed to go nicely with cou-cou, the okra and cornmeal national dish of Barbados. In certain nations, the roe—the eggs—is highly prized as a delicacy. The flying fish is said by many to have a robust, delicious flavor.

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