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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