A new study reveals how the archerfish hits its target with a very high level of accuracy.
Archerfish are one of a kind as they are able to prey on land-based insects and other small animals by shooting them down with a jet of water sprayed out from their mouth. The archerfish spits the water with high precision, which makes the insects sitting on leaves and branches outside the water to lose control and fall in the water.
The archerfish is primarily found in southeast and southern regions of Asia. Researchers at the University of Bayreuth in Germany conducted their study for a few years in Thailand. They found that one of the reasons the archerfish shoots at its target with high accuracy is due to lack of prey.
The researchers reveal that archerfish can shoot at its target up to 6.5 feet away using its tongue and mouth. Some scientists suggest that it may look simple, but it is a complex task to adjust the force of water and put an insect off-balance.
Stefan Schuster, a researcher at the University of Bayreuth and a co-author of the study, reveals that this is the first time that the shooting ability of archerfish has been observed in detail. Schuster explains that the researchers trained archerfish to shoot at target placed at different heights and filmed them in slow motion.
Schuster reveals that archerfish do not shoot at all targets with the same force. They usually adjust their water jet stream for each target to maximize the impact. The fish change the force of the water by adjusting the movement of their mouth. The timing of closing its mouth is vital for achieving the force and acceleration to hit its target efficiently.
The researchers suggest that the mechanism used by fish to shoot water at its prey is very similar to the throwing action of humans, which lets them control the distance of their throw. Schuster indicates that the throwing capability of humans is impressive as it requires accurate control over movement.
"It is believed that this ability has forced our brains to become bigger, housing many more neurons to afford the precision. With the many neurons around, they could be used for other tasks apart from applying them for powerful throws. It is remarkable that the same line of reasoning could also be applied to archerfish," says Schuster.
The study has been published in the journal Current Biology.
Below is a NatGeo Wild feature about the archerfish.