Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Flying Fish of YPM VZ: Unsuccessful hitchhikers on Peabody research vessels

Last week I re-curated the flying fish of our collection (family Exocoetidae). Here's a picture of one of them, ICH 8957, a juvenile collected in the Sargasso Sea in February of 1933:

As I entered each specimen's data into our database, I was struck when I noticed that the collector's notes for one of the specimens read "flew aboard". Another specimen's collection notes read "landed on deck". The final tally of such specimens ended up being five! I was amazed.

I knew that flying fish had sharp gliding skills, but I certainly didn't realize that they could glide so high as to make it onto a large research vessel. To give you an idea of the size of such a ship, here is a picture of the original R/V Atlantis, the ship onto which one of these specimens (ICH 8956, see below) flew in 1937:

According to Wikipedia's sources, flying fish can glide as high as 6 meters (20 feet) above the water and as far as 400 meters (1,312 feet). The longest amount of time that a flying fish has been recorded in flight is 45 seconds, a record that was videotaped in May 2008 off the coast of Japan. The video can be seen here:

Flying fish do their flying/gliding thing when they're trying to escape predators. Our five intrepid flying fish may have escaped their predators, but they flew right into the hands of researchers eager to take them back to the lab to study them! I'm not sure their strategy was so well thought-out...

Here's a pic of the five hapless hitchikers:

From left to right are ICH 1438, ICH 8948, ICH 1437, ICH 8949, and ICH 8956. ICH 1437 and 1438 flew aboard off the coast of Peru; ICH 8948 and 8949 flew aboard in the Seychelles Islands; and ICH 8956 flew aboard in the Caribbean Sea.

Here's another flying fish video well worth watching, from the Discovery Channel's Life series. It really shows off the magic of these fish:


  1. dang! did not realize flying fish could fly for so long!!

  2. omg ICH 1437 is the cutest! :)

  3. Hey do you want the picture I have of the live baby flying fish at Galapagos? it's cool to see that the banding pattern on the pectoral fins is black!