World’s fastest fish continues to impress

April 28, 2014 - 06:47

The sailfish is not only the world’s fastest swimmer. A new video reveals that its movements during hunting are the quickest ever seen in a marine animal.

With top speeds of up to 110 km/t – compared to Usain Bolt’s 44 km/t – the sailfish is not only the fastest swimmer in the oceans. It also has a hunting technique that requires incomprehensibly high acceleration. In fact, its movements during hunting are the quickest ever observed in a marine animal.

This became clear after an international team of scientists made a number of video recordings of the impressive animal, which in our world would correspond to the schoolyard bully, but with the speed and acceleration of a bully victim.

“The recordings have provided us with entirely new knowledge about the hunting techniques used by the sailfish – not least about their extreme speed,” says Professor John Fleng Steffensen, of the Marine Biology Section at Copenhagen University. He was one of the scientists involved in the new study, carried out by scientists from Canada, Denmark, Italy and Germany.

Sardines don’t stand a chance

The team used high-speed underwater video cameras that can capture up to 240 frames per second. This enabled them to show that the Atlantic sailfish (Istiophorus albicans) uses its extended rostrum, or ‘bill’, as a tool to catch fast-moving fish such as sardines.

Analyses of the video recordings revealed that the sailfish caught the sardines by first inserting their bill into sardine schools without eliciting an evasive response. The sailfish then use their bill to either tap on individual prey targets or to slash through the school with powerful lateral motions characterised by one of the highest accelerations ever recorded in an aquatic vertebrate.

The recordings were made off the Mexican coast near the Yucatan channel.

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Read the Danish version of this article at videnskab.dk

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