Research

Flying Fish Aerodynamics

Flying fish, strange as it sounds, have aerodynamic prowess comparable to hawks. The fish aren’t true fliers, but they do glide for hundreds of meters using their large pectoral and pelvic fins as wings. Wind tunnel research shows the fish have their maximum lift at an angle of attack around 30-35 degrees, matching their typical take-off angle (top). Their best gliding performance occurs when they’re roughly parallel to the water (middle). The researchers even found that the fish use ground effect to enhance their lift. Although their aerodynamics allow flying fish to get out of reach of their aquatic predators, the fish must be wary of flying too high, as this makes them a target for frigatebirds (bottom). These acrobatic seabirds can’t get wet, but they have some impressive aerodynamics of their own to help make up for it.  (Image credit: BBC Earth, source; research credit: H. Park and H. Choi; see also SciAm)

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