Exocoetidae is a family of marine fish in the order Beloniformes of class Actinopterygii. Fish of this family are known as flying fish. There are about sixty-four species grouped in seven to nine genera. Flying fish can make powerful, self-propelled leaps out of water into air, where their long, wing-like fins enable gliding flight for considerable distances above the water's surface. This uncommon ability is a natural defense mechanism to evade predators.
The oldest known fossil of a flying or gliding fish, Potanichthys xingyiensis, dates back to the Middle Triassic, 235-242 million years ago. However, this fossil in not related to modern flying fish, which evolved independently about 65 million years ago.
In May 2008, a Japanese television crew (NHK) filmed a flying fish (dubbed "Icarfish") off the coast of Yakushima Island, Japan. The creature spent 45 seconds in flight. The previous record was 42 seconds.
Flying fish can use updrafts at the leading edge of waves to cover distances of at least 400 m (1,300 ft). They can travel at speeds of more than 70 kilometres per hour (43 mph). Maximum altitude is 6 m (20 ft) above the surface of the sea. Some accounts have them landing on ships' decks.
The term "Exocoetidae" is not only the present scientific name for a genus of flying fish in this family, but also the general name in Latin for a flying fish. The suffix -idae, common for indicating a family, follows the root of the Latin word exocoetus, a transliteration of the Ancient Greek name á¼Î¾ÏŽÎºÎ¿Î¹Ï„Î¿Ï‚. This means literally "sleeping outside", from á¼”Î¾Ï‰ "outside" and ÎºÎ¿á¿–Ï„Î¿Ï‚ "bed", "resting place", so named as flying fish were believed to leave the water to sleep on the shore