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a close up of a fish

Atlantic Flying Fish
(Cheilopogon melanurus)

Beloniform fish capable of gliding over the surface of the water with the help of their wing-like pectoral fins, allowing them to glide just above the waters surface over distances of up to 50m.When forced to rise higher they are in danger of landing in  low-lying boats.

At night, they are often attracted by the lights of sailboats and accidentally jump on deck and usually die. The aerial manoeuvres of the animals are probably a means to evade threats (natural enemies; fast boats).

General information

Further names: Portuguese: Peixe volador

Size of adults: The animals usually measure 15 cm in length but can reach sizes of up to 30 cm.

Prey: Feed on small fish and planktonic crustaceans

Habitat and range: Usually occur close to the waters surface in the temperate to tropical zones of the Indo-Pacific region and the Atlantic. Also occur sporadically in the Eastern Atlantic up to the coast of Denmark and Norway and are present in the Mediterranean.

Distinctive features: Large , wing-like pectoral fins positioned high on the body. The lower and upper jaw have the same length in flying fish,  much unlike with many other related beloniform fish and the mouth is in a terminal position (at the tip of the snout). The juveniles of some species have an elongated lower jaw. Their body is covered in large scales that  easily detach. The nasal openings are large and positioned directly in front of the eyes. 

Taxonomy: Class: Ray-finned fish (Actinopterygii); Order: Beloniformes; Family: Exocoetidae

Threats: Artificial lights on sailing boats and smaller vessels, often preyed upon by several cetacean species. Not commercially exploited in Europe. Listed as Least concern by IUCN.