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.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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