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Archerfishes - sharpshooters of the mangroves

By: Mark McGrouther, Category: Science, Date: 03 Aug 2010

Archerfishes are well known for their ability to shoot a jet of water at insects in overhanging branches.  So how do they do it?

Mouth of a Sevenspot Archerfish

Mark McGrouther © Australian Museum

Adaptations to the mouth give archerfishes their impressive expectorating ability. A deep groove runs along the roof of the mouth (see image to the right). A ridge along the top of the tongue fits into this groove. When an archerfish shoots a jet of water, it raises its tongue against the roof of the mouth forming a tube. The gill covers are then quickly closed, forcing water along the tube. The tip of the tongue acts as a valve.  The BBC filmclip below shows archerfish in action along with a velvet worm firing streams of glue.

Tags fishes, ichthyology, archerfish, spit, Toxotes, chatareus, Toxotidae, jaculatrix,