In most situations, we think of small fish as exclusively prey animals. Large birds, felines, and even humans regularly catch little fish in rivers and lakes all over the world, but one species has decided it’s time to become a hunter itself! Meet the Archerfish.
The archerfish is an omnivorous fish that lives in brackish environments in India, Southeast Asia, and Australia. Although they are small, usually 5-7 inches, they have developed a special way of hunting that has allowed them to prey on animals and insects outside of the water they live in.
As a general rule, the archerfish will eat anything it can find in the water. When it can, it will feed, as most other small fish do, on floating debris and small insects. What makes the archerfish special, however, is what it does when it decides it wants something out of its reach.
The archerfish is able to shoot water from its highly evolved mouth. Their mouth, similar to a squirt gun, has a small channel that can hold water. When the fish slams its gills shut, the pressure wave shoots the water through the channel and out of the fish’s mouth.
In a movement faster than the blink of an eye, the archerfish launches a stream of water and can hit prey, knocking it into the water where it is able to be swallowed whole. The archerfish is able to accurately hit anything within 6 feet of the water’s surface.
One of the most common prey sources for archerfish is spiders. Once the fish as spotted potential prey (in this case, an orb-weaver spider), it sits and makes its calculations. The water causes light to refract, making a seemingly straight shot seem much harder than it actually is. For the archerfish, however, this isn’t a problem in the slightest. They are perfectly adapted to hit tiny insects.
The orb weaver spider, unsuspecting of anything attacking it from below, was suddenly hit with a jet of water. Although it was a direct hit, the spider was holding onto the branch, and it wasn’t totally knocked off. Recovering slightly, the spider is clearly unsure as to what just happened!
Holding on for dear life, the spider is nearly knocked off by a second burst from the fish! Finally, in a move that doesn’t make too much sense, the spider lowers itself on its web just a bit, totally exposing its body to the fish. In what seems like the easiest shot ever, the archerfish easily knocks the spider free with a third burst of water and has its lunch served!
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