Fish snatches bird out of the air in mid-flight


There are plenty of birds who prey on fish, swooping down to pluck them from their watery home, but there's one fish who's getting back at these winged menaces.

Apparently rumours have been going around for decades of the African tigerfish leaping from the water to snatch birds out of the air. With these freshwater fish growing up to a metre in length, sporting a set of vicious-looking teeth, and being known for their aggressive behaviour and tendency to hunt in groups, they certainly have an extreme enough reputation. However, researchers hadn't given these anecdotes much credit until now.

A team from the Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management at North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa, was studying the tigerfish at Mapungubwe National Park's Schroda Dam, when they captured the above footage of one of the fish leaping from the water to make a meal of a barn swallow.

"The whole action of jumping and catching the swallow in flight happens so incredibly quickly that after we first saw it, it took all of us a while to really fully comprehend what we had just seen," said Nico Smit, who led the team, according to Nature. "The first reaction was one of pure joy, because we realized that we were spectators to something really incredible and unique."

Apparently, this was just one of the 20 such mid-air strikes the team saw each day they were in the area.

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The African tiger fish isn't the only fish to prey on birds. Monk fish have been known to leave their usual bottom-dwelling habits behind for a short time while migrating, and they occasionally gobble up a seabird who happens to be floating on the surface of the water. They're also not the only fish that have been known to leap from the water for its food either. The South American silver arowana is also called the 'monkey fish' for its ability to jump from the water to catch its prey. It mostly feeds on things that are either in or on the water, but the remains of birds and bats have been found in their stomachs.

What sets this discovery apart is that it's the first time scientists have ever actually caught this on video, confirming a freshwater fish preying on birds in flight. According to what Smit told Nature, this is mainly due to how little freshwater fish have been studied in Africa, and he hopes that these findings will spur more basic freshwater research and research into fish behaviour as well.

(Photo courtesy: Smithsonian/YouTube)

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