The Exocoetidae are a family of marine fish in the order Beloniformes class Actinopterygii, known colloquially as flying fish or flying cod. About 64 species are grouped in seven to nine genera. While they cannot fly in the same way a bird does, flying fish can make powerful, self-propelled leaps out of the water where their long wing-like fins enable gliding for considerable distances above the water’s surface. The main reason for this behavior is thought to be to escape from predators.
Barbados is known as “the land of the flying fish”, and the fish is one of the national symbols of the country. The Exocet missile is named after them, as variants are launched from underwater, and take a low trajectory, skimming the surface, before striking their targets.
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 is not related to modern flying fish, which evolved independently about 66 million years ago.