Sailfish

Florida_Sailfish

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The sailfish is a relatively large fish living in temperate and tropical waters all over the world. You can’t see the sail on the fish in the picture because it is folded down. Below is one of the few pictures I could use of a sailfish with its fin up. There are two different species in the sailfish genus. These are the Atlantic sailfish and the Indo-pacific sailfish. Both species have a top half that is blue-gray, and they have a white bottom half. The sail from which they get their name is actually their dorsal fin. Sailfish belong to the billfish family, which includes swordfish, marlins, and spearfish. These fish all have a long, pointy bill like the sailfish. The sailfish is the fastest fish in the world, they have been recorded swimming at up to 68 miles (110 km) per hour!

Sailfish_costa_rica_1

 

Size

These fish are rather large, and even the one in the picture above is not as large as they can get. Adults range from 5.7 to 11 feet (1.7 to 3.4 m) in length. That’s one foot (30 cm) taller than a basketball goal! They are actually not very heavy for their size, weighing 120-220 pounds (54.4 to 100 kg). The largest individuals are usually females.

Diet

Sailfish eat cephalopods (a group of animals that includes squid and octopus) and fish. Some of their favorite foods in the Atlantic are mackerel and tuna. Sailfish that live in the Pacific Ocean consume mostly sardines and anchovies, among others. When feeding, groups will use their large sails to coral fish into a large ball. They will then slash their bill through the ball stunning some fish. Next they will easily eat the stunned fish, which don’t put up much of a fight. Click here to see some videos of a sailfish feeding frenzy in action!

Habitat and range

Although these fish live in the open ocean, they stay near the surface. As I mentioned earlier, there are two species that inhabit different oceans. They typically stay above 660 feet (200 m) in depth. The Atlantic sailfish prefer extremely high-up water, rarely venturing below 66 feet (20 m) This is partially because the water closer to the surface is warmer. They in fact like water near the coast better than in the deep sea.

Status and threats

Both species of sailfish are classified as least concern on the IUCN Redlist. Although the Indo-Pacific sailfish is fished commercially, the Atlantic sailfish isn’t, due to its tough meat. Both species are fished for recreation. Despite their ranking by  IUCN, there are worries that this fish, especially the Atlantic species, is being over-fished.

Reproduction

Breeding typically occurs in shallower waters near the shore. Pairs spawn during the summer, and females can release up to 4.8 million eggs each year! These are released in about three batches. Eggs hatch just 36 hours after they are fertilized outside of the female’s body. At this point the young are only .3 centimeters long. They are different from the adult in that they do not have the long bill. After the juveniles have doubled their size, the bill starts to lengthen. By the time individuals reach the length of eight inches (20 cm), they look like miniature versions of the adults. Despite their large size, they only live to four years.

Don’t forget to scroll down and comment your guess about what the next animal is!

800px-liejsecle

Sources:

Photo credits:

  • Sailfish – public domain
  • Sailfish sail – Bmacdona
  • Mystery animal – Benjamint444
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