The water jet produced by the mouth of the archer fish assists the capture of prey by increasing in volume at the head of the jet to multiply force.

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Archer fish are known for striking down prey in vegetation surrounding their habitats. These fish do so by propelling water in the form of a jet stream that strikes its prey with enough force to knock it off the vegetation and into the surrounding water. It was originally believed that the fish were capable of producing such strong jet forces because of some internal structure or mechanism but new studies show that the force is actually amplified outside of the fish’s body. During the propagation of the jet, the fish modulates the stream to create a gradual increase in the accumulation of water at the head of the jet (i.e., mass is directed to accumulate at the head of the jet as it moves). This increase in mass towards the head of the jet also increases its velocity. The force that these modulations create when the jet hits the prey outside of the water is nearly six times greater than the force of the water that leaves the fish’s mouth.

To see the archer fish in action and learn more about this creature, check out this video by KQED Deep Look and this video by NYTimes ScienceTake.

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“Archer fish knock down insects anchored to vegetation by hitting them with a precisely aimed jet of water. The striking force of the jet at the impact is such to overcome the strong anchoring forces of insects. The origin of the effectiveness of such hunting mechanism has been long searched for inside of the fish, in the unsuccessful attempt to identify internal structures dedicated to the amplification of muscular power. Here we perform a kinematic analysis of the jet emitted by two specimens of Toxotes jaculatrix. We estimate that at the impact the jet conveys a typical specific power of about 3000 W/kg, which is well above the maximum specific power of the order of 500 W/kg deliverable by a vertebrate muscle. Unexpectedly, we find that the amplification of muscular power occurs outside of the fish, and is due to a hydrodynamic instability of the jet akin to those occurring in Drop-on-Demand inkjet printing. The investigated fish are found to modulate the velocity of the jet at the orifice to favor the formation of a single, large, water drop that hits the prey abruptly with a large momentum. The observed mechanism represents a remarkable example of use of an external hydrodynamic lever that does possibly not entail the high evolutionary cost needed for the development of highly specialized internal structures dedicated to the storing of mechanical energy”(Vailati et al. 2012: 1).

Animal ArchitectureApril 22, 2014
Ingo Arndt

Journal article
How Archer Fish Achieve a Powerful Impact: Hydrodynamic Instability of a Pulsed Jet in Toxotes jaculatrixPLoS ONEOctober 24, 2012
Alberto Vailati, Luca Zinnato, Roberto Cerbino
Editor/s: Andrew Pelling

Journal article
Archerfish Actively Control the Hydrodynamics of Their JetsCurrent BiologySeptember 5, 2014
Peggy Gerullis, Stefan Schuster

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Learn More about the living system/s

Spotted ArcherfishToxotes chatareusSpecies

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