How Do Flying Fish Fly?
Flying fish live in the warm oceans. This unusual fish is able to glide for long distances over the surface of the water by means of two wing-like fins. The flying fish does not fly for pleasure. Usually it flies only as a means of escaping enemies in the water below.
To fly, the flying fish first swims rapidly through the water. When it is moving at top speed, it swoops up out of the water, spreads its large fins and soars out of its enemies’ reach. Often it will taxi along the surface by propelling itself with its tail to pick up more speed while in flight.
There are about 40 known species of flying fish. Beyond their useful pectoral fins, all have unevenly forked tails, with the lower lobe longer than the upper lobe. Many species have enlarged pelvic fins as well and are known as four-winged flying fish.
The process of taking flight, or gliding, begins by gaining great velocity underwater, about 37 miles (60 kilometers) per hour. Angling upward, the four-winged flying fish breaks the surface and begins to taxi by rapidly beating its tail while it is still beneath the surface. It then takes to the air, sometimes reaching heights over 4 feet (1.2 meters) and gliding long distances, up to 655 feet (200 meters).
Once it nears the surface again, it can flap its tail and taxi without fully returning to the water. Capable of continuing its flight in such a manner, flying fish have been recorded stretching out their flights with consecutive glides spanning distances up to 1,312 feet (400 meters).