Flying fish: Real fish, but not really flying

Flying fish: Real fish, but not really flying

In warm ocean waters around the world, you may see a strange sight: A fish leaping from the water and soaring dozens of meters before returning to the ocean’s depths. Early Mediterranean sailors thought these flying fish returned to the shore at night to sleep, and therefore called this family of marine fish Exocoetidae (in Latin, “ex-” means “out of” and “koitos” means bed), according to Steve N.G. Howell’s book “The Amazing World of Flyingfish” (Princeton University Press, 2014).

What are flying fish?

There are about 40 species of flying fish, all of which tend to be cigar-shaped with long, wide pectoral fins on either side of their bodies. Broadly speaking, there are two categories of flying fish: “two-wingers,” whose two large pectoral fins comprise most of the flying “lift” surface; and “four-wingers,” which also have two enlarged pelvic fins in addition to the two long pectoral fins. All flying fish have an asymmetrical, vertically forked tail (a shape known as hypocercal), with vertebrae extending into the longer, bottom lobe of the fork, making it look sort of like a boat’s rudder.

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