Behavior

One characteristic of many beloniforms is a strong attraction to lights at night. This behavior is exploited by fishermen, who use lights to capture schools of sauries that cruise just below the ocean surface. Such fishing methods, however, involve a peculiar (although infrequent) hazard: impalement by large needlefishes. In one documented case, a 3.3 ft (1 m) long Tylosurus fatally impaled a fisherman after jumping toward the light on board his canoe.

Certainly the most remarkable beloniform behavior is ex-ocoetid flight. (It should be noted that flight is not entirely restricted to exocoetids: Some hemirhamphids are capable of gliding, and Euleptorhamphus viridis has been reported to travel 164 ft [50 m] in two jumps.) In the more derived four-winged flyingfish species, flight is achieved as follows. The fish, swimming at a speed of about 33 ft/s (10 m/s), breaks the surface at an oblique angle and taxis for 16.4-82 ft (5-25 m) by rapidly beating the caudal fin in the water. Then a free flight ensues, which may span a distance of 164 ft (50 m) and reach a height of 26.2 ft (8 m). Once the fish loses altitude, caudal fin taxiing can be repeated without returning to the water, so that flights can be stretched to distances of 1,312 ft (400 m). In-triguingly, flyingfishes seem to sense wind direction and take off into the wind, and tantalizing evidence suggests that they can control the direction of flight; Cypsilurus appear to successfully seek out patches of seaweed in which to land. So why do flyingfishes fly? One of the most likely hypotheses is that flight has evolved as a tactic for evading predators.

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