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Fish that shoot

Pez arquero

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Life in mangroves is often highly competitive, especially when it comes to feeding, where animals have to sharpen their wits to secure their daily sustenance. The archerfish undoubtedly possesses one of the most sophisticated hunting strategies in this unique environment.

These small fish, which rarely exceed 18 centimeters, patrol the surface in search of small insects hanging from plant leaves. Once the prey is located, the archer takes position and spits a few drops of water from its mouth at high speed, impacting the victim, which falls into the water and is devoured.

The palate of these fish is equipped with a longitudinal groove that, when pressed by the fish’s tongue, acts like a small cannon, allowing it to reach distances of up to ninety centimeters with some precision. However, there are undeniable differences in skill among individuals. Even older specimens can shoot more frequently than younger ones, which are often much clumsier.

At the Steinhart Aquarium, they conducted an exhibition in a tank with 150 archerfish. When it was time to feed them, they lowered the water level and stuck small pieces of sausage to the inner glass. The fish would then initiate a bombardment against the glass, causing the 200 grams of food to fall into the pond in just fifteen minutes.

The hunting system is often communal. Sometimes, multiple individuals have been observed shooting at the same prey, and when it falls into the water, it will be engulfed by the fish that is closest, even if it wasn’t the one that hit the target. In this way, the younger, less skilled individuals in shooting but more agile in their movements could be compensated. As an additional fact, the archerfish easily adapts to freshwater or brackish water.

“You cannot defend what you do not love, and you cannot love what you do not know.”