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No. 96: Nov-Dec 1994

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Why do flying fish have such colorful wings?

As he sailed tropical seas, A.D.G. Bell, in command of the ship Gandara, mused over this question:

"Apart from the ones which quite graphically show the lift-off from the water, the other thing that interested me was the wing colouring of brown and yellow, and turquoise. I have noticed during passages around the world how the colours do apparently change, varying from almost trans-lucent purple to a deep navy colour, and wonder how many other colourings of flying-fish wings have been reported.

"I think that flying fish are just taken for granted but perhaps if we looked at them more closely, then we may see some really weird and wondeful colours, especially in island areas. What does baffle me, is why, when the wings are only extended during flight, they should be of differing colours. I could understand it if they were a coral-swimming fish where the colours are designed to help them blend into the coral colours and so evade capture, but why the need in flight over crystal clear waters like the Coral Sea?"

(Bell, A.D.G.; "...and Whether Fish Have Wings," Marine Observer, 64:136, 1994. This journal may be ordered from: The Stationery Office Publications Centre, P.O. Box 276, London SW8 5DT, ENGLAND.)

Comment. In other words, how do the bright colors, seen only in flight, increase the species' fitness and thus be explicable by the evolutionary paradigm?

From Science Frontiers #96, NOV-DEC 1994. 1994-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987