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FLYING FISH “Exocoetus Volitans”


“Exocoetus Volitans”

An article by Hannah Mackay with The Voice Fuerteventura 

As the summer is here, many of us head out onto the water and one sight that never ceases to amaze or charm is the sight of the Flying Fish gliding alongside you.

There are 40 different species found in the oceans around the world and here in the canaries we have the Exocoetus Volitans, like the one shown here in the photo. As a species they can be found in small groups close to the surface of the water, although this makes them easy to spot, does also put them in the danger zone for predators such as Dolphins, tuna, marlin, birds, squids and porpoises. Remarkably, as a species, they have developed a way of propelling themselves out of the water and out of the reach of their predators. They are sensitive fish and easily attracted to light, in fact fisherman make use of this trait and often use a light source to attract them to the boat. They are around 7-12 inches long and a bluish-grey colour. They feed on plankton, bacteria and small marine creatures and can live for up to 5 years.

Their streamlined torpedo shape allows them to gather enough speed under the water to break the surface and use their large pectoral fins like wings to get airborne. Once propelled out of the water the flying fishes rigid body gives them an aerodynamic advantage during its glided flight. This allows them to increase their speed and improve their aim. The flying fish can generally fly for distances of up to 50 meters, but can use updrafts from waves to cover longer distances, sometimes up to 400 meters. They can travel at speeds of more than 70kmph and can reach heights of 6 meters above the sea´s surface. At the end of their flight or glide, the flying fish re-folds its pectoral fins to re-enter the ocean, or it drops its tail in and gets ready to push itself against the water again, to lift itself up for another glide.

The mating season can depend on the when the oceans current is at its weakest. They normally live in groups and during mating season these groups can exceed a million fish. Young flying fish have whiskers near their mouths which makes them look like underwater plants. This disguise aids in their survival during their first few vulnerable days. Here in the Canaries you can often see these amazing gliders, flying away from boats and ferries so keep your eyes peeled as they really are an amazing sight.

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