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flying fish

flying fish, common name for members of the Exocoetidae, a family of carnivorous or herbivorous fish of warmer seas. Flying fishes usually swim in schools. They average 7 to 12 in. (17.5–30 cm) in length and have pectoral fins that compare in size with the wings of birds; in some species the pelvic fins also are enlarged. Of the latter type, best known in Atlantic waters are the four-winged flying fish and the bearded flying fish, named for the long barbels around the mouths of the young. The young of many species of flying fishes resemble blossoms of plants in the genus Barringtonia and are thus protected from predators. The California flying fish (Cheilopogon pinnatibarbatus californicus), the largest (up to 18 in./45 cm) of the family, is common in the Pacific; the blackwing flying fish is found in both oceans. Flying fishes are excellent food; their aerial talents help them to avoid the tuna, mackerel, and dolphins that prey on them.

Flying fishes generally do not actually fly, but glide on their outstretched fins for distances of up to 1/4 mi (0.4 km). Their velocity (up to 30 mi/48 km per hour) builds as they approach the water's surface until they launch themselves into the air, vibrating their specially adapted tail fins in order to taxi along the surface. The flying gurnard of the South Atlantic, an unrelated member of the Dactylopteridae family, has enormous pectorals and makes short leaps clear of the water. A 3-in. (7.5 cm) characin (family Characidae) of the Amazon basin actually flies short distances by buzzing its winglike fins.

True flying fishes are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Actinopterygii, order Beloniformes, family Exocoetidae.

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flying fish

flying fish Tropical marine fish. It is dark blue and silver, and uses its enlarged pectoral and pelvic fins to glide above the water surface for several metres. Length: to 45.7cm (18in). Family Exocoetidae; species Cypselurus opisthopus.

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flying fish

fly·ing fish • n. a fish (family Exocoetidae, in particular Exocoetus volitans) of warm seas that leaps out of the water and uses its winglike pectoral fins to glide over the surface for some distance.

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flying fish

flying fish See EXOCOETIDAE.

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