Flying fish: Let’s meet these amazing creatures…

Exocetides or flying fish (Exocoetidae) are a family of marine fish that comprises about 70 species grouped into 7 genera. They are found in all oceans, especially in the warm tropical and subtropical waters.


Flying fish: taxonomic hierarchies.

Animal Kingdom: Phylum: Chordata  Class: Actinopteriogy Order: Beloniformes  Family: Exocoetidae  afinesque,


Their name comes from the Greek εξω-κοιτος, exo-koitos, «to lie outside» in the sense of «sleeping under the stars». due to the fact that it’s not uncommon for them to be stranded on the decks of ships when they leave the water at night.

The constellation Volans refers to this fish, and one of the genera, Hirundichthys, means «swallow fish» in Greek.

Before learning about the Flying fish, Let’s learn first how Birds Flight

There are many specific forms of flight among the large number of types of birds that exist; for example, the albatross (family Diomedeidae) has long, narrow wings and can remain in flight for a long time without moving them taking advantage of air currents.

On the other hand hummingbirds (family Trochilidae) cannot stop flapping for a second.

But basically, all birds use the same aerodynamic principles. Virtually the entire anatomy of the birds is designed and involved in the flight, but especially their wings, and can be explained, among others, by applying the laws of Newton’s movement.

Newton’s Third Law, (also known as the Action-Reaction Law,) states that if an object exerts a force on a second object, this second object exerts a force of equal magnitude in the opposite direction on the first object.

The movement of the wings pushing the air down would have this effect; the descending force on the air creates a force on the bird in the opposite direction.

But in addition, as in an airplane, the rising force also appears when the bird advances without fluttering.

This is because the shape of the wings creates a descending flow of air and, responding to Newton’s third law, the air creates a force in the opposite direction that, if it overcomes the action of gravity, will make the bird fly.

For example, moving the wings can direct the lifting force under the wings to different angles, getting the necessary propulsion.

Flight adaptations

The wings are the key anatomical structure in the flight of birds, as they are the ones involved in generating the lifting force.

In some species, the shape of the body can also generate a lifting force following the same principles, but in general those responsible are the wings.

But in addition, birds have developed many other anatomical adaptations for flight, especially to reduce the high energy demand of flying:

✔️ Body shape designed to reduce resistance with the air

✔️    Skeleton with hollow bones to reduce body weight.

✔️   Loss of many bones with respect to other animals, for example they have lost the tail bone (it can be seen in fossils of the first birds, for example in Archeopteryx) and they have lost the jaw and teeth (replaced by much lighter beaks and aerodynamics).

✔️  Unidirectional pulmonary system to meet faster the high amounts of oxygen that the flight demands.

✔️  Improved antioxidant cell systems to compensate for the greater formation of free radicals by the higher metabolic rate.

✔️   Thoracic cage adapted to anchor the powerful muscles that move the wings.

Let’s watch this really illustrative video.

 Flying Fish: Main Traits

Their most surprising feature is the size (unusually large) of their pectoral fins, which allow them to fly and plan for distances of more than 50 meters.

The longest duration recorded was 45 seconds. Taking into account that the adult exocetids measure only about 30 cm, this capacity goes well beyond the simple jumps out of the water.

Flying fish reach speeds in the air of 50 to 60 km / h (like a horse that is not racing, at full gallop).

These distances and speeds are possible thanks to the rapid beat of their fins (about 50 times per second). The final advantage of this mechanism is a greater possibility of escape from predators.1

In some species the pelvic fins are also unusually large, and make it appear that the fish has four wings, such as Cheilopogon exsiliens. Their eyes are flatter than those of most other fish’s eyes which allow them to see out of the water.

They live near the surface of the water and feed on plankton. Their eggs are sometimes used in Japan, especially to prepare the delicious sushi

Over time these incredible creatures have been able to develop this ability to fly or plan on the surface as a way to stay active, as well as take care of their predators.

They are very intelligent animals who have been able to keep up with the changes in the environment adapting to each of the relevant situations in their development.

Among the large number of existing flying fish, it can be said that they have similar characteristics in their anatomy; their well pronounced and formed pectoral fins, are strong and stable while the tail is fork-shaped.

In the same way they have certain deformities in their lobes which differ in size and shape, the upper side being longer than the other sides.

From there a striking deformity is shown and that makes the difference between one species and another.

The largest number of flying fish is established in the warmest areas of the oceans, always looking for tropical and subtropical places where they find better conditions to inhabit.

The way of life of these fish has not yet been fully studied and much remains to be learned about them.

They generally spend part of their life on the surface of the oceans of almost the entire world, unlike the stone fish  who inhabits almost all their time in the depths of the ocean waters.

Even when the stone fish resembles a sea monster like the flying fish it’s worthy of admiration, since it performs routine work that greatly helps the maintenance of the ecosystem.

With the help of their fins (which reach half of their body), they can stay alert and active taking care of their predators that are not only the largest fish in the oceans but man himself.

These fins measure half the length of the fish. In addition to protecting itself from its predators, this marine animal enhances its beauty through its flight, which turns out to be fantastic and exciting.

More interesting Facts About Flying fish

As the name implies, flying fish, are those that through their well-organized structure can make flights over the surface, make great movements with the tail, making low-level planes and can even reach more extreme heights. It’s a practice of dynamic movements with which they can take care of themselves, as well as being part of their daily routine.

These attitudes are performed to protect themselves from predators, although being on the surface they are easier prey for large birds that feed on flying fish.

They usually inhabit warm waters of tropical and subtropical areas. Even when they are established all over the world, they are seen in the different oceans, performing their traditional aerodynamic flights.ü

Flying fish can be easily caught at dusk, as fishermen use light to perform their routine fishing in boats and boats, they are attracted to clarity and go directly to them, where they are easily caught.

Like many other marine fish, they also suffer from these calamities of deceptive fishing.

Fishermen use this to catch large numbers of flying fish. They catch one of them and keep it alive, keeping it inside the canoes, like a lure to attract the other fish. It’s a way to attract the other specimens and thus be able to obtain large quantities of fish at the same time.

The displacements made by the flying fish to stay out of the water are made with the help of the tail, with which they make movements of up to seventy times per second and that is what gives them the strength and power to stay on the surface during their flight.

It’s one of his best strategies, since it’s the tail where they can get the necessary speed to get to the surface; of course it’s done with the help of the pectoral and pelvic fins too.

Let’s enjoy them

The Flying fish body

Their body is lined with large scales but they are of smooth consistency. The upper lobe of the caudal fin is medium sized more than the lower one, at the edge of their body they present certain folds that go to both sides, both its back and upper remain rigid and retracted.

Their leather is brown with dark shades on its back wearing a white band, just behind the pectoral fins. Also on many occasions they are noticed a soft reddish color.

Their pectoral and pelvic fins are a source of energy as well as its tail that would be its starter motor.


Although they bear this name, it’s not a flight as such, rather it’s an extreme gliding activity that they perform with dynamics and rhythmic movements that are very beautiful to observe.

It’s a true spectacle that these fish perform, that although many say that it’s a way to seek their food and evade their predators, one could say that it’s a way to show the world all the wonders that sea creatures can do.

Each time they arrive to plan, they travel a distance between 60 and 100 meters, at an average speed of 55 kilometers per hour.

To achieve such skill speed they get to beat their fins more than fifty times in just one second, this is how they can keep on maneuvers on the surface of the ocean waters.

This is one of the most beautiful tasks seen in these fish, when they perform these constant movements that help them stay on the surface of the ocean waters.

Their best flight is done in large groups, which resembles a true spectacle worth admiring. They are almost always kept out of the water on the surface, making jumps in different directions.

In the summer they are seen hanging around the beach in full view of everyone, as if wanting to show their flying skills.

In those moments when they make themselves seen by the spectators without any fear, they are demonstrating to the world their power and greatness, calling on the conscience of the people who mistreat these animals by making indiscriminate fishing and polluting their aquatic environment.

Flying fish are able to stay on the surface by performing their maneuvers, they can even stay for much longer traveling distances of almost four hundred meters. Each time the routes of these fish become more extensive and interesting.

The flying fish are skilled when making movements, since they take advantage of the different air currents to be able to develop their greater speed in the flight, which is helped by the hunched formation of the wing very similar to the wings of a bird.

These flying fish have a unique formation in their style, each thing is put in the right place to give it the necessary importance.

Let’s enjoy them one more time.

¿How do flying fish breathe?

The gills are located between the mouth and the pharynx, and that is where the fish takes oxygen for breathing. Water enters the gills when you open and close your mouth, and the blood vessels present in them take the necessary oxygen transporting it directly into the blood. We invite you to read our artice the anatomy of fish to learn more about how fish breathe

¿Where do Flying Fish Inhabit?

The flying fish inhabit shallow and in waters far from the coasts. They are distributed mainly in tropical warm seas and also in subtropical areas, such as in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Depending on the species, this animal is found in different regions.

The Flying Fish Feeding Habits

The fundamental diet of the flying fish consists of plankton, tiny living organisms that float in the water and from which a large number of animals feed. But they also feed on other smaller fish species.


The reproduction of the Exocoteidae is oviparous. Females lay eggs in algae or simply release them in the water. The eggs are held together by a sort  of elastic threads.

Flying fish roe are highly sought after in the Asian market, especially in Japan, where they are used to make sushi.

As you can see, flying fish are one of the most interesting marine animals. Seeing them fly over the surface of the water is a spectacle that should not be missed at least once in a lifetime.

Most Common Species of Flying fish

The sharpchin flyingfish (fodiator acutus)

This peculiar fish sports very long and narrow fins that allow it to develop great speed both inside and outside the water. Like the tropical flying fish, the sharpchin flyingfish likes to spend its time near the surface and, rarely, descends to more than 15 meters deep.

It’s very common in the waters west of Africa and west of the coast of America, from the United States to the coasts of Chile.

They can be very close to the coast and at sea while traveling long distances in large banks to find their food.

Its maximum size is 20 centimeters, but the most normal is that they are around 15 centimeters in length. Their small size and light weight allow them to travel long distances out of the water, using their strong pectoral fins, which is very good for escaping from a predator. Therefore, they do not move far from the surface.

As with most flying fish, plankton is their favorite food. And they travel long distances chasing these tiny beings, which sometimes causes them to get too far from their comfort zones and be attacked by high seas predators such as swordfish.

Tropical flying fish (exocoetus volitans)

It’s the most common and numerous flying fish species in the world, and it’s not difficult to find them fluttering on the surface of the water. You just have to know where to look for them.

They usually frequent coastal waters of Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Florida … in practically all areas with tropical climate and warm waters; they are rarely found below 20 meters deep.

Its elongated and hydrodynamic body makes it a tremendously fast fish in the water and, in addition, it has the ace under the sleeve to be able to move over the surface to escape from predators such as tuna, swordfish and other large predators of the ocean.

Its 20 centimeters in length make it very vulnerable, so it lives in large shoals that move both along the coastal areas and by the high seas in a search for continuous food.

As a peculiarity, its huge fins allow it to make long displacements through the air, very close to the surface of the water. It’s endowed with a light blue color by the lower part of its body to camouflage itself better with the color of the sky.

Above, however, it looks a darker color so as not to be seen with the depth of the ocean in the background.

Black wing flyingfish

This species of flying fish is slightly larger than the other two, with about 25 centimeters in length. It has the peculiarity that it lacks spines on the fins, so they are made of a soft but resistant material.

Of the three, it’s the only one we can see in the Mediterranean. We can also meet these flying fish in subtropical waters around the world, where the temperature encourages the life of plankton and other small crustaceans.

Like the tropical flyer,  the blackwing flying fish is also an expert in camouflage and has adapted every part of his body to different needs, with a dark spine to go unnoticed on the seabed, and not be seen below – with a bluish silver tone  When it’s in full flight.

The three species are a magnificent example of the evolution that the species can get to survive. Seeing them in full action – flying above the water – is a spectacle for nature lovers.



The most common predators of flying fish are tuna  mackerel, swordfish, sailfish or marlin, anjora and albacore. In the air when making their flights, they can be preyed on by seagulls, rabihorcados and albatrosses.

Generally the fishing of the flying fish is carried out in the summer and spring times. They are frequently used as commercial prey, although they are also used as bait in the fishing of tuna or swordfish and other varieties of marine fish.

Over time Flying fish have been perfecting their flights and also taking care of aerial predators such as large birds.

Their slide has evolved to escape from predators since as we have mentioned they have many both out of the water and in it. Unfortunately, one of its greatest predators is man, who in his desire for superiority captures them and kills him, while they do it as a sport to obtain trophies as a result of obtaining the largest size of flying fish.

Mostly this type of fish is being caught with greater boom in Asian countries such as China, Japan, Vietnam and the Caribbean, where it’s commercialized irrationally, being this much in demand because it’s one of the favorite delicacies of Asians.

Flying fish are used in Japanese cuisine for the manufacture of different types of sushi.

In the same way, they are part of the diet of the Tao people of Taiwan, who are the first marketers of these flying fish, used in Taiwan cuisine as true delicacies.

In the population of Barbados, flying fish are in serious danger of extinction due to water pollution and indiscriminate fishing, practically this species is no longer seen in the waters of the seas. This causes a number of problems between Trinidad and Tobago with Barbados.

The Portuguese man-of-war they are other of the flying bird hunting birds. These birds remain in the air for a long time to stalk the flying fish at the moment they surface.

They are birds that lack waterproof plumage, in the same way they cannot make safe landings in the water, in addition to having weak and fragile legs so it’s very comfortable for them to wait for the flight of flying fish and take their favorite food.

These birds are almost always seen loitering in the air, when the other predators are on the lookout for flying fish in the water, these marine predators are tuna, dolphins among others.

They have an excellent view and a powerful flight, they are ready for any event.ü

Another predator of the most agile is the mahi mahi, which chases the flying fish in the waters at high speeds that reach about 93 kilometers per hour, sometimes they manage to escape jumping to the surface until rising in the air, but unfortunately for them he meets the frigates who seize the moment to capture them.

Let’s enjoy them one more time


In spite of all the vicissitudes that these flying fish go through and that are branded as predators, they are nothing more than wonderful marine animals of which we must be proud that they remain in our seas and that they don’t provide a nice spectacle when they rise to the surface .

It only remains to raise awareness about the existing problem and that leads to putting these animals at great risk of extinction in the different areas where they are located.

It’s about doing great things to check the number of strategies that can serve as indispensable tools when making decisions for the prevention and conservation of flying fish.

Realize the wonders that surround us and that we don’t know how to appreciate, that in the long run we end up destroying their ferocious means and habitat without any conservation stimulus, it’s about not fishing these animals that don’t harm human beings who are those who benefit from these animals that in any way help us maintain ecological balance.

Flying fish are those sea creatures full of beautiful things that end up making us realize how wonderful Mother Nature is by giving us so many beautiful things full of life.

In any case, a call is made to all competent authorities and agencies to take the measures concerning the care, preservation and conservation of flying fish, which until now have not been taken into account to place on the list of animals in danger of extinction.

This species despite its striking performance has gone unnoticed and even unattended by researchers and scientists who have not spent the necessary time to unleash all the mysteries that surround these flying fish.

Let’s watch this illustrative Video



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