Butterfly Flyingfish
Volador Ala Navaja
(Cheilopogon papilio)

Butterfly Flyingfish, Cheilopogon papilio: The Butterfly Flyingfish is fairly easy to identify and is not easily confused with other fish species. They have elongated broadly cylindrical bodies with a short head that has a short and blunt snout and a small mouth.

They are blue-green above and silvery below. The pectoral fins are black, except for a clear margin and tip, and reach past the anal base and the pelvic fins, except for the tip and the first and last rays, and originate far back on the body being closer to the tail fin than the operculum.

The anal fin is transparent and the dorsal fin is dusky.

A key to identification of the Butterfly Flyingfish is that the dorsal fin has 9 or 10 rays. The anal fin originates under the third dorsal ray. The tail is deeply forked with a much longer lower lobe.

Butterfly Flyingfish are found in the first 60 feet of the water column, normally far out at sea being pelagic.

They are reported to reach 21 cm (8.25 inches); however the fish pictured below is 22.2 cm (8.75 inches) exceeding this maximum length. They are found in all Mexican waters of the Pacific with the exception of the northern half of the Sea of Cortez.

The Butterfly Flyingfish is a member of the Exocoetidae Family known in Mexico as voladores. Flyingfish are a global, pelagic species, normally found some distance out at sea. They have exceedingly long and wide pectoral fins which they use like wings, holding them rigid in place, allowing flights up to 300 meters, without a flapping motion. When swimming, these fins are held tight against the body. The fins have no spines; the lateral line is low on the body. The pelvic fin origin is closer to the anal fin origin than to the pectoral fin base. The anal fin origin is directly under the third dorsal ray. Flyingfish have deeply forked tails with the lower lobe larger than the upper. They feed on planktonic organisms. They generate large, sticky eggs that attach themselves to floating debris.

Globally, there are 65 species of flyingfish from nine genera. There are 24 global members of the Cheilopogon Genus, of which two are found in Mexican waters.

Butterfly Flyingfish picture

Butterfly Flyingfish picture

Butterfly Flyingfish, Cheilopogon papilio: Provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area of Baja California Sur, Mexico, in September 2011. Size 22.2 cm (8.7 inches). Description and photos courtesy of John Snow.

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