“Flying fish live in all of the oceans, particularly in tropical and warm subtropical waters. Their most striking feature is their pectoral fins, which are unusually large, and enable the fish to hide and escape from predators by leaping out of the water, taking short gliding flights through air just above the water’s surface. Their glides are typically around 50 metres (160 ft).
To glide upward out of the water, a flying fish moves its tail up to 70 times per second. It then spreads its pectoral fins and tilts them slightly upward to provide lift. At the end of a glide, it folds its pectoral fins to reenter the sea, or drops its tail into the water to push against the water to lift itself for another glide, possibly changing direction. The curved profile of the “wing” is comparable to the aerodynamic shape of a bird wing. The fish is able to increase its time in the air by flying straight into or at an angle to the direction of updrafts created by a combination of air and ocean currents.
Genus Exocoetus has one pair of fins and a streamlined body to optimize for speed, while Cypselurus has a flattened body and two pairs of fins which maximizes its time in the air. From 1900 to the 1930s, flying fish were studied as possible models used to develop airplanes.