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The typical flying fishes have one dorsal fin and one anal fin, both of them soft rayed, both of them located far rearward, and with the anal below the dorsal. Their ventral fins are well behind their pectorals, their tails are very deeply forked with the extreme tips rounded, the lower lobe the longer, and they have small mouths and large rounded scales. Their most distinctive feature is that their pectorals are so long and so stiff that their owners can plane through the air on them, several feet above the water, which they do mostly in attempts to escape their enemies, and as has been described, time and again. Jordan and Evermann have given a popular account of this so-called "flight" (really not flight at all, for the flying fish does not flap its wings) in their [page 172] Guide to the Study of Fishes, 1905, p. 157. For a more detailed study, based similarly on firsthand observations, we refer the reader to Hubbs, Papers of the Michigan Academy of Sciences, vol. 17, 1933, pp. 575-611. Voyagers in tropical seas are perhaps more familiar with flying fishes than with any other fishes. And they are often seen in the warm ultramarine-blue waters of the Gulf Stream abreast of our northeastern coast. But none of them are to be expected in the boreal waters of our Gulf except as the rarest of strays.
A flying fish could hardly be mistaken for anything else, except possible for a flying gurnard (p. 472). But a glance should be enough to tell which of them one has in hand, for the flying fishes have stiff, narrow, pointed wings, only on dorsal fin and a very deeply forked tail, whereas the so-called wings of the flying gurnard are broad, rounded, and extremely flexible; they have two dorsal fins, and a tail fin that is only weakly concave in outline.