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GOD'S HANDIWORK
by Denise Raterta
09/18/05
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THE ASTONISHING ARCHERFISH: the spitting fish

Leopards stalk and chase their prey. Spiders spin trap webs. Bats deploy sonar to catch their grub. Several sea creatures bury themselves in sand before pouncing on their quarries. Animals snag their meals using a myriad of fascinating hunting methods. Among these creatures is the amazing Archerfish, scientifically known as Toxotes Jaculatrix, or T. Jaculator (Toxotes means “bowman” or “archer”.)

Found in mangroves of India, Australia, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific, the Archerfish has a funny and unusual but effective way of capturing its food (usually insects). This fish cunningly uses its flattened, knife-shaped body and black and white markings as camouflage to sneak up on their prey, which like to rest on mangrove roots and foliage near the water. At daytime it patiently patrols just beneath the water surface, relying on its excellent eyesight to spot its lunch. Once the target is sighted, it positions itself directly below the victim, where the occurrence for visual error caused by refraction will be minimal; then, aiming its snout slightly above the water’s surface, it skillfully spits out a powerful, accurate jet of water at its victim, knocking it down into the water. Adult Archerfish have a superb precision of 99% when hitting their targets. They can squirt accurately up to 5 feet (one meter) long and can keep shooting water up to seven times in quick succession. Their accuracy and range increases with their size and age.

The way they shoot down prey is actually fairly simple. Pressing their tongue against the groove on the roof of their mouth, they form small tubes, each measuring 1/16” in width. As soon as their mouths are filled with water, they forcefully expel it through the tubes by suddenly shutting their gills. Such method of capturing its food is what makes the Archerfish distinctive. These fish won’t collect any “Best in Manners Award”, but they certainly deserve our admiration for their ingenius way of obtaining food.

The Archerfish displays yet another amazing trait--their adroitness at calculating where their prey will fall. The moment they knock the victim down, the Toxotes Jaculatrix dash for the landing spot in 100 milliseconds of a hit—twice faster than the greatest sprinting speed of man. What is more mind-boggling is that predicting the trajectory of the insect’s descent would require an advanced knowledge of complex mathematics (algebra and calculus). Even humans with access to the most sophisticated computers could barely achieve this feat in one full second! A proficiency of such magnitude astounds so many that one scientist said admiringly, “The Archerfish would be the better outfielder” in the game of baseball. Praise God for the Archerfish, His astonishing handiwork!



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