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Meet the Flying Gurnard

Flying Gurnard
The 'wings' of a flying gurnard © Laszlo Flickr

Dive beneath the waves, and you might encounter a spectacle of nature that seems almost out of this world: the flying gurnard. This unique marine creature, with its expansive, wing-like pectoral fins and vibrant colors, is a sight to behold.

Flying Gurnard
The ‘wings’ of a flying gurnard © Laszlo Flickr

The Habitat of a Flying Gurnard

The flying gurnard, scientifically known as Dactylopterus volitans, is a bottom-dwelling fish found in tropical to warm temperate waters on both sides of the Atlantic. From the chilly waters of Massachusetts to the warm currents of Argentina, and even as far as the English Channel to Angola, this fish has made its presence known. Notably, it’s also a resident of the Mediterranean.

A Mesmerizing Display

One of the most captivating features of the flying gurnard is its ability to change color. Typically brownish or greenish, it can display reddish or yellowish patches. But the real show begins when it gets excited. The fish spreads its “wings”, revealing a semitransparent fin with a phosphorescent, bright-blue coloration at the tips. Paired with its large, expressive eyes, the flying gurnard is truly a marvel of the deep.

YouTube video
Arguably one of the most beautiful fish © 1MinuteAnimals Youtube

Diet and Lifestyle of the Flying Gurnard

The flying gurnard feeds on small fish, bivalves, and crustaceans. As a bottom dweller, it scours the ocean floor in search of its next meal. But don’t be fooled by its name; while it might have “wings”, the flying gurnard doesn’t truly fly. Instead, it’s said to glide above the water for short distances, using its outspread pectoral fins.

A Unique Anatomy

Beyond its wings, the flying gurnard boasts unique anatomical features. Its head is covered in bony plates, and it has a single dorsal fin ray, distinct from the rest of the fin, located on the nape of its neck. Despite its delicate appearance, this fish can grow up to 50 cm (20 inches) in length.


The ocean is full of wonders, and the flying gurnard is undoubtedly one of them. Its radiant colors, expansive fins, and unique features are a testament to the diversity and beauty of marine life. So, the next time you’re near the ocean, take a moment to appreciate the wonders beneath the waves. Who knows, you might spot a flying gurnard gliding by.

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