Researchers capture video of freshwater fish grabbing birds out of the air

Jan 13, 2014 by report

(Phys.org) —A team of researchers with North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa has for the first time captured on video, a freshwater fish leaping out of the water and into the air to grab a flying bird. The video was part of research the team was conducting on tigerfish in African lakes—their paper has been published in Journal of Fish Biology.

Many , including fish, have been seen grabbing , but in almost all instances, the birds are nabbed as they are sitting on the water or on shore near the water. In this new study, the researchers found that the tigerfish were able to use two different tactics to grab barn swallows—birds that are generally known for their inflight speed and agility. The tigerfish, which have large sharp teeth were observed leaping and catching birds while swimming just near the surface, and also when pushing up from deeper water. The video of one of the fish actually catching a bird was filmed near Schroda Dam, which has formed a lake on the Limpopo River—part of the Mapungubwe National Park in South Africa.

The team reports that they were skeptical of rumors about fish leaping out of the water to catch birds, and were merely looking to study the habitat and migration habits of tigerfish. They were all shocked, the team reports, when they saw the first incident. After studying the tigerfish for some time, they observed on average 20 instances a day of the fish leaping out of the water and successfully grabbing birds, which were pulled under the water and eaten. They found that the fish were able to leap as far as three feet out of the .

Tigerfish are well-known in Africa—they're a prized game fish and are notoriously fierce predators. For years, there have been anecdotal reports of fish grabbing birds out of the air over lakes in Africa, but until now, no one has documented them doing so. The video unequivocally proves that the fish are able to catch birds in flight and the observations by the researchers indicate that it is a common occurrence. The researchers suggest that the tigerfish's abilities have gone unnoticed by scientists until now because so little research has been conducted on freshwater in Africa.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Surface and sub-surface pursuits of Hirundo rustica by Hydrocynus vittatus; Unsuccessful and successful aerial strike of Hydrocynus vittatus on Hirundo rustica from deep water. Credit: Journal of Fish Biology, 84: 263–266. doi: 10.1111/jfb.12278


Explore further: Secrets of the legless, leaping land fish (w/ Video)

More information: O'Brien, G. C., Jacobs, F., Evans, S. W. and Smit, N. J. (2014), First observation of African tigerfish Hydrocynus vittatus predating on barn swallows Hirundo rustica in flight. Journal of Fish Biology, 84: 263–266. doi: 10.1111/jfb.12278

Related Stories

Climate change threatens freshwater fish

Jan 10, 2014

(Phys.org) —New research has revealed that Western Australia's drying climate will impact fish migrations, putting further pressure on a number of native freshwater fish species.

Physiological fish reactions biomarker for water quality

Dec 09, 2013

A research project developed by the National Institute for Agricultural and Food Research and Technology (INIA) and the School of Forestry at the Technical University of Madrid has studied how to use fish farms to detect ...

Open wide: Zebrafish fool fast food

Nov 14, 2013

Research published in the Royal Society Journal, Interface, has demonstrated that predatory fish sneak up on lightning-fast prey by disguising water disturbances as they approach.

Recommended for you

Lemurs match scent of a friend to sound of her voice

7 hours ago

Humans aren't alone in their ability to match a voice to a face—animals such as dogs, horses, crows and monkeys are able to recognize familiar individuals this way too, a growing body of research shows.

Love-shy panda artificially inseminated

16 hours ago

Britain's only female giant panda, Tian Tian, has been artificially inseminated after failing to mate with her male partner Yang Guang, Edinburgh Zoo said Tuesday.

User comments : 5

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Returners
4.8 / 5 (5) Jan 13, 2014
That's pretty impressive.

I've seen and heard of Catfish in a pond swallowing ducklings which were on the water. I don't know whether anyone I've known would have seen a fish jump out of the water to intercept and eat a flying bird.

It would be an interesting experiment to see if that happens. Maybe dangle a duckling over a pond a few inches to a foot above the water, and see if a large mouth bass or a catfish will jump out of the water to catch it.
Osiris1
1.6 / 5 (5) Jan 13, 2014
Ya ain't seen nuthin'..
We have big mouth carp.......nawww, not the tea party nazis...... grabbing folks out of boats on the Mississippi River and trying to eat them. And we have barge operators trying to buy politicians so they can open the Great Lakes to them. Once those monsters are in the Great Lakes, then no one will care about environmental regs there to protect the fish...ALL THE GAME FISH WILL BE GONE. So then the barge operators and everyone else will be able to freely pollute, and the Chinese will then be able to buy great lakes water cheap. With their own carp in it, they will feel right at home.
rkolter
5 / 5 (2) Jan 13, 2014
...Maybe dangle a duckling over a pond a few inches to a foot above the water, and see if a large mouth bass or a catfish will jump out of the water to catch it.


Job Application:
Field Technician - Duck Handler
Maintain average distance between duckling and surface of water of no more than four inches over long periods of time and record sightings of catfish attempting to eat said duckling. Replace ducklings as necessary.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) Jan 13, 2014
That's pretty impressive.

I've seen and heard of Catfish in a pond swallowing ducklings which were on the water. I don't know whether anyone I've known would have seen a fish jump out of the water to intercept and eat a flying bird.

It would be an interesting experiment to see if that happens. Maybe dangle a duckling over a pond a few inches to a foot above the water, and see if a large mouth bass or a catfish will jump out of the water to catch it.

ASPCA, PETA will have yer ass in some serious hurt if you move ahead with your evil and devious plan...
EnricM
not rated yet Jan 14, 2014
The video is pretty low quality, is there a better version somewhere?

More news stories

Low Vitamin D may not be a culprit in menopause symptoms

A new study from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) shows no significant connection between vitamin D levels and menopause symptoms. The study was published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopa ...

Astronomers: 'Tilt-a-worlds' could harbor life

A fluctuating tilt in a planet's orbit does not preclude the possibility of life, according to new research by astronomers at the University of Washington, Utah's Weber State University and NASA. In fact, ...