Strictly speaking flying fish don’t fly—they glide. But these fork-tailed swimmers found in tropical and subtropical oceans still outperform some veteran fliers. When researchers placed the fish—caught in the wild, killed, and stuffed with foam—in a wind tunnel, they found that their fins achieved better lift and less drag than the wings of many insects, and did just as well as some birds, like hawks and wood ducks. That may explain why the fish are able to glide over the water for distances as far as 200 meters, the team reports online today in the Journal of Experimental Biology. Of course, hawks and butterflies don’t have to be great gliders—they can just flap their wings to keep from crashing to the ground.
See more ScienceShots.