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Fishes - Archer Fish

Region: Southern Asia

Class: Osteichthyes

Order: Perciformes

Family: Toxotidae

Genus: Toxotes

Scientific Name: Toxotes jaculator

Description: Length: up to 15 cm. Large anal and dorsal fins extend back almost to the caudal fin. The large mouth points upward with an jaw that is distinctly adapted for spitting jets of water.

Distribution: From India through southeast Asia, the Malay Archipelago and parts of Australia to the Philippines.

Habitat: Mainly brackish waters of mangrove belts but they may also live in the sea or go upstream into fresh water.

Food: Their main food consists of small water animals swimming or floating near the surface but when they are hungry, archer's shoot down insects crawling on the leaves and stems of overhanging vegetation.

Skin/Color/Coat: Silver with five broad vertical bars on the sides.

Reproduction and Development: The adults apparently spawn far from land in the regions of coral rock or coral reef. The young return to the brackish water or even beyond into the fresh water. They have the dark bars on the back, as in the adults and they also have "light flecked, yellow iridescent flecks on the back between the bars". At times the flecks shine so brightly they appear as tiny green fluorescent lights. It is suggested they may act as recognition marks between members of the species, helping them to keep together in the muddy waters. Archerfish begin to spit when they are young and only a few centimetres long, but the jets of water they produce do not travel much over 10 cm . As they grow older their marksmanship improves and the length to which they spit increases.

Adaptations: A fully grown adult is able to hit insects 180 cm away. Indeed, one fish has been seen to miss its target and the jet of water travel measured 450 cm. If it misses with the first jet, it will follow with several more in rapid succession. At the moment of shooting the tip of the snout is just breaking water, the eyes being submerged. Water in the gill chamber is driven into the mouth by a powerful compression of the gill covers. At the same time, the tongue is pressed upwards, converting a groove in the roof of the mouth into a tube which increases the speed of outgoing streams.

Threats: Pollution and "development" of mangrove areas reduce habitat available.

Status: Common

References: Encyclopedia of Animal Life. Part 3: 78-79. Published by Marshall Cavendish Ltd., N.Y.