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Aptly Named Archerfish Shoots Down Prey with Water Cannon

posted: 08/20/15
by: Danny Clemens
Archerfish
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Even out of the water, insects throughout the forests of Australia and southeast Asia have a ruthless foe to fear: the archerfish.

From the murky depths, the sharpshooting archerfish directs a dangerous water canon toward nearby prey. The powerful spurts of water will knock an unsuspecting insect from its perch, sending it tumbling helplessly into the water in time for the archerfish to swoop in and enjoy its meal:

New research from Wake Forest University indicates that the archerfish's water canon is much more precise and complex than previously believed. In a study published in the journal Zoology, WFU researchers explain that the archerfish is capable of altering its lethal stream based on its intended target.

Analysis of high-speed footage revealed that the archerfish's jet of water merges to form a "globular mass" immediately before it hits its victim -- in order for that to happen effectively, the fish must asses the distance of target and adjust the stream accordingly.

"This study gives us one more window into the complexity of animal experience. Our bias is to think that fish are just dumb and don't have a whole lot going on and that's not true. The fish are making very sophisticated calculations," study co-author Miriam Ashley-Ross explains in a news release.

Researchers have likened the fish's calculations to those of a baseball outfielder, who must predict an oncoming ball's trajectory and determine an appropriate plan of action in the moment.

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