The Expert Marksman: Archer Fish - Scientific Mystery Monday

One of the most famous living water creatures is the Archer fish.  Most fish capture their prey while swimming, but this innovative creature can also shoot a thin stream of water under pressure at insects as they fly in the air above the water!   

Expert marksmen, they accurately compensate for both their angle at the time of firing and the insect’s movement.  This is more amazing since the Archer fish’s eyes are underwater while shooting, thus it must compensate for the change in the direction of light, called light diffraction, that results when the light passes from air into the water. The Archer fish must also compensate for the deformations resulting from disturbances in the water’s surface. (Grant, 1969). 

The outside of the Archer fish’s body reveals hardly a hint as to how it performs its remarkable marksmanship feats.  Only by careful examination of the inside of the mouth do we discover the mechanism that it uses to shoot its water gun.  Along the roof of their mouth is a narrow groove that the fish forms into a thin, straight tube by covering it with its tongue.  The tip of the tongue acts as a valve and the gill covers, when rapidly closed, force water to shoot out of its mouth.

The accuracy of this artillerist is truly marvelous—if the target is within a distance of under four feet almost 100% accuracy is common.  A large Archer fish can propel water as far as twelve feet. No other fish is designed to do this, and no evolutionary links are known that can explain it. The most intriguing fact is their food is rarely obtained by use of their amazing ability. They do just fine by consuming obtained food the way most all other fish do, by scooping them up as they swim.

You can see the Archerfish in action in this video.


Dr. Jerry Bergman has taught biology, genetics, chemistry, biochemistry, anthropology, geology, and microbiology at the college level for over 30 years. He has 9 degrees, including 7 graduate degrees, and has authored over 800 publications. He is the author of The Dark Side of Charles Darwin and the co-author of In Six Days and Persuaded by the Evidence.


The wonders of creation are all around. The amazing features found in these species of fish are just a sampling of the mysterious works of God's creation. Want to discuss these mysteries? Join the Scientific Mystery Monday grouphere at Creation Conversations.


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Comment by Carolyn Reeves on March 11, 2013 at 10:17am

I can't believe I'd  never heard of the incredible archerfish before. I'm sending the video to all of my grandchildren.  This is too fascinating not to share!

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