Big in Japan: TV crew captures world’s longest flight by a flying fish

This may be one of the coolest things you’ll see today…

Unless you’re a science and nature dork like me, you might not be aware that flying fish are real creatures, and they actually do fly (well, sort of). You might also be surprised to hear that their roe tastes great when sprinkled on top of California rolls, and that their flesh is divine with a dab of wasabi and splash of soy sauce!

Anyway, back to the lecture at hand – earlier this week, a Japanese television crew captured some seriously kick-ass footage of a flying fish off the southern coast of Kyushu island in Japan. As you can see in the video below, the fish spends an astounding 45 seconds out of the water, which is now being regarded as the longest ever recorded flight by this species.

As I said before, I’m a bit of a science and nature dork despite my father’s best attempts at teaching me sports – sorry Dad, I did try! – though I think you’ll all agree that flying fish are pretty freakin’ cool creatures. After all, how many fish out there have the power to soar through the air at speeds up to 30 miles per hour, and can escape hungry predators with aerial acrobatics?

First question: What is a flying fish?

The Exocoetidae or flying fish are found the world over, though they’re especially common in the warm tropical and subtropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. Even if you’re not a marine biologist, their distinguishing features are pretty obvious, namely the huge pectoral fins that look like they were taken straight from a F-22 Raptor!

Second question: How do flying fish fly?

Actually, they don’t fly, but rather use their tail fins to accelerate rapidly towards the surface of the water to achieve lift-off, thus escaping the mouths of hungry predators. Once airborne, they spread their wings, er…fins, and glide along the thermals with the type of grace and elegance that is only found in nature. While gliding, flying fish can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour, and can cover about 50 yards in a single bound.

In this particular record-breaking jump, the fish was able to stay aloft by occasionally beating the surface of the water with its tail fin. This produces the additional thrust needed for multiple jumps, which enables flying fish to cover distances equal to several football fields


Third and final question: How do flying fish taste?

Delicious. Flying fish roe is known in Japanese as tobiko (とびこ), though it most commonly appears in Californian style sushi as those bright orange eggs on your roll. They’re salty, have a unique tang not unlike caviar, and pop in the mouth like little seaweed-scented bubbles. And, while the flesh of the fish itself is an expensive delicacy that is hard to find outside Japan, it has a soft and refined texture that justifies the high price tag.

On that note, I think it’s time to head out for a sushi lunch…

** All images courtesy of the WikiCommons Media Project **