Sunday, September 16, 2018

The amazing naffwing

"The Amazing World of Flyingfish" is a short introduction to the wonderful world of flyingfish, as the authors insist on calling them (they are usually called flying fish, in two words). I suppose most people have heard of these relatively small fishes, which can glide through the air with the help of wing-like fins. The book contains a lot of superb photos – they look good even in Kindle – but some of them have already been posted free on the web by the authors themselves.

One thing I gleaned from the book is that flyingfish research is still in its infancy. It's apparently almost impossible to identify flyingfish in the wild with the aid of traditional field guides, which are usually based on museum specimens or (in the best of cases) describe the fish when it has just been caught and dragged out of its oceanic habitat. The fins of captured fish may look very different from fins of wild, “flying” specimens. As for dead fish in a museum, those tend to lose their distinctive coloration – in live condition, many flyingfish have quite colorful appearances. The authors have organized several expeditions in the West Pacific and documented different types of flyingfish with advanced camera equipment, even giving the types vernacular names, but they haven't always been able to correlate the specimens caught on camera with those found in proper scientific checklists.

The English names of flyingfish are often quite inventive and funny, and presumably based on names of moths (or dragonflies). Purple Haze, Sergeant Pepper, Pacific Necromancer and Double Hyena are some of the more original, but the gold medal goes to Fenestrated Naffwing. I originally assumed that name was a joke! Two other fun facts I learned from this book is that there are actually two types of flyingfish, known as two-winged and four-winged, and that flyingfish-watchers call juvenile specimens “smurfs”.

Well, at least they are having fun on their expeditions. ;-)

Four stars.

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