Animal Species:A flyingfish, Cheilopogon sp.
Flyingfishes don't really fly - they glide.
Standard Common Name
Flyingfishes can be recognised by their huge pectoral fins. They can be loosely divided into two types. The four-wing flyingfishes (like that in the images) have both the pectoral and pelvic fins enlarged.
Flyingfishes range in length from 14 cm to 46 cm.
They are found near the surface of all tropical and some temperate marine waters.
The map below shows the Australian distribution of the species based on public sightings and specimens in Australian Museums. Source: Atlas of Living Australia.
Distribution by collection data
Feeding and Diet
Most have small mouths and eat plankton.
Other behaviours and adaptations
Flying fishes are well known for their gliding (rather than flying) ability. They can glide for 200 m or more. These fishes are often seen taxiing just above the water surface, rapidly beating the water with the large lower lobe of the caudal fin.
The two-wing flyingfishes have enlarged pectoral fins only. They generally do not glide as far at the four-wing flyingfishes.
Flyingfishes use their gliding ability to escape from predators. A flying fish will commonly glide at double its swimming speed. Some species have been known to accelerate from a fast swimming speed of about 36 km/hour to as much as 72 km/hour in air.
Unless the day is sunny and the water is particularly still, a pursuing predator will not be able to see a flying fish in the air because of refraction at the water surface.
Most fishes have curved corneas. Flyingfishes have flattened corneas that enable them to focus in and out of the water. This didn't seem to help the fish in the image. It was caught after its flight was abruptly terminated by District Fisheries Officer M. Proctor's head.
- Carter, G.S. 1945. The flight of flying-fishes. Endeavour IV (16). Pp. 5.
- Collette, B.B. & N.V. Parin in Paxton, J.R. & W.N. Eschmeyer (Eds). 1994. Encyclopedia of Fishes. Sydney: New South Wales University Press; San Diego: Academic Press . Pp. 240.
- Gomon, M.F. in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & R.H. Kuiter (Eds). 1994. The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. State Print, Adelaide. Pp. 992.
- Helfman, G.S., Collette, B.B. & D.E. Facey. 1997. The Diversity of Fishes. Blackwell Science. Pp. 528.
Mark McGrouther , Collection Manager, Ichthyology