Tropical Two-wing Flyingfish | Oceana
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Ocean Fishes

Tropical Two-wing Flyingfish

Exocoetus volitans

Distribution

Worldwide in tropical to sub-tropical latitudes

Ecosystem/Habitat

Open ocean (epipelagic)

Feeding Habits

Foraging predator

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Taxonomy

Order Beloniformes (needlefishes and relatives), Family Exocoetidae (flyingfishes)

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The tropical two-wing flyingfish gets its common name from the region where it lives (the tropics), the fact that it has greatly enlarged pectoral fins (“wings”), and its ability to glide long distances outside of the water to escape predation. It is one of approximately 65 species of flyingfishes, which do not actually fly and would perhaps be better called “glidingfishes” as they cannot change direction. The two-wing flyingfishes glide with their enlarged pectoral fins, while the four-wing flyingfishes also have enlarged pelvic fins that contribute to their gliding ability.

Tropical two-wing flyingfish feed on plankton crustaceans and other small invertebrates.  They have large eyes and excellent eyesight and can therefore hunt and eat individual plankton.  This is in stark contrast to the very large-bodied filter feeders (like the whale shark or basking shark), which blindly filter huge volumes of water in order to obtain sufficient food.  Tropical two-wing flyingfish are a favorite prey species of swordfish, common dolphinfish, tunas, billfishes, and other open ocean predators.  In its attempt to avoid predation, this flyingfish can glide for long distances above the water surface.  For a predator that spends its entire life in the water, the flyingfish’s ability to glide is akin to being able to disappear.

Most flyingfishes live exclusively offshore, in the open ocean.  Tropical two-wing flyingfish, however, occasionally also live closer to the coast and can be observed or captured inshore.  Unlike some other species of flyingfishes that attach their eggs to floating objects, this species reproduces via broadcast spawning, where several females release their eggs and several males release their sperm into the surface water at the same time.  This method increases the chance that eggs will become fertilized and decreases the likelihood that fertilized eggs will be eaten by egg predators.

The tropical two-wing flyingfish is a common species with a large geographic range and is not targeted by large-scale, commercial fisheries.  Though its conservation status has not been determined by scientists, it is almost certainly a species of least concern.

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