The Flying Fish!

Resident of both sea an sky, the Flying Fish is often seen gliding above the water and maneuvering away from predators with ease.

The term “Flying Fish” is a broad nickname for the Exocoetidae family which contains over 40 different species of flying fish. These species can be seperated, roughly, into two different groups – a two wing and a four wing flying fish. Both groups have unevenly forked tails which help them taxi when preparing to fly, but the four-winged fish has a higher clearence capacity because of its increased wing area.

These fish have evolved to deal with both the water and air, in an attempt to escape the many predators they have beneath the surface. They can hold their breath for minutes at a time and can use their forked tail to break the water and gain speeds of about 37 mph underwater. They use this initial velocity to gain lift while taxing on the surface. As they begin to angle upward, they maintain open wings to take in maximum wind power and can, at times, gain four feet of clearance above the water. The fish can maintain a gliding angle for over 650 ft, but can quickly come down and taxi again to maintain consecutive “leaps” for over 1300 ft.

A video displays the flight and angling of a fish as it gains and regains flight:

Ranging between 14 and 46 cm, the flying fish has been astounding sailors and scientists for years. Its ability to hold its breath and use gliding powers is an amazing representation of arial locomotion.


1-“Flying Fish” Animals: National Geographic Wild. National Geographics, n.d. Web. 18 Sep 2011.

2-“Flying Fish” Yahoo Education. Youtube, n.d. Web. 19 Sep 2011.

3- Aquatic Life of the World. Tarrytown: Marshall Cavendesh Corporation, page 211 (link to Google books), 2001.


Lorena Barba posted on September 23, 2011 at 8:32 pm

Could they really get so big?? 46 cm sounds awfully big to me. Where did you get that number?

Shahil Patel posted on September 24, 2011 at 1:29 pm

the video is soo cool

Kevin Ma posted on September 24, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Do they have specialized lungs to be able to hold their breath like that and whip their tail so much at the same time?

Morgan posted on September 24, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Profesor Barba – I got the number from the e-book referenced as “3”. Although a few sources said that the fish could be about 45 cm, all agreed on 18 in so I just used the more frequently used metric number. This length generally shows up in the fish that circle the Pacific ocean. Thank you for pointing out that I needed to add references! I hope you can find the information you want from the sites!

Morgan posted on September 24, 2011 at 2:01 pm

Shahil – Thank you!! It was taken near Japan!

Morgan posted on September 24, 2011 at 2:07 pm

Kevin – That is a really interesting question! I actually couldn’t find the answer. I know that they have the ability to hold their breath for at least a minute but no site I could find talked about special lungs. If you find something I would love to see it!!

Lorena Barba posted on September 25, 2011 at 9:40 am

I see, wow, the California flying fish can be as large as 46cm. That’s surprising. Now I want to know their wing area!