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article imageSailfish are the 'slashers of the sea' (video)

By Tim Sandle     Apr 26, 2014 in Environment
Following an in-depth study, scientists have found that sailfish use their bills to corral and slash other fish, like schooling sardines.
The Sailfish is a species of billfish living in warmer sections of all the oceans of the world. They are predominately blue to gray in color and have a characteristic erectile dorsal fin known as a sail, which often stretches the entire length of the back. Another notable characteristic is the elongated bill, resembling that of the swordfish and other marlins.
A new study has revealed that sailfish use their long, rapier-like snouts when hunting schools of smaller fish. This was shown through the use of high tech cameras, which followed different sailfish around.
Among the other findings are:
The fish often hunt in groups, sometimes up to 40, corralling schooling prey, like sardines.
The purpose of the sailfish bill was not well understood. However, now the team’s study shows that fish’s hunting habits, which are more complex than previously recognized.
Sailfish insert their bills into the school of fish and then slash faster than the prey fish can respond.
Sailfish can also tap individual fish with their bills to disorient them, before swallowing them.
Some of this activity is shown in the video below:
Lead researcher, Jens Krause of the Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, told National Geographic that sailfish "don’t just attack a school and remove individuals, like dolphins or sharks would. hey rough these fish up for many hours. They keep them pinned, go in, and hit multiple individuals over and over again. In smaller schools, virtually every fish has been injured many times. They’re slow and exhausted. That’s when the sailfish start with the tapping."
The study has been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, in a paper titled "How sailfish use their bills to capture schooling prey".
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