Smallwing Flyingfish

Smallwing Flyingfish, Oxyporhamphus micropterus

The Smallwing Flyingfish, Oxyporhamphus micropterus, whose Spanish common name is volador alita is a species in the Halfbeak or Hemiramphidae Family, known collectively as pajaritos in Mexico. This fish is also known as the Bigwing Halfbeak. Productive discussions with Milton Love at the University of California, Santa Barbara indicate that it was moved from the Hemiramphidae Family in 1998 to the Exocoetidae Family (Flyingfish) and given its common name. In 2011 it was moved back to the Halfbeak family but its common name as a flyingfish was retained generating some confusion. Globally, there are only two species in the genus Oxyporhamphus, both of which are found in Mexican waters, one in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific.

The Smallwing Flyingfish have elongated cylindrical bodies. They are dark blue-black dorsally and silvery ventrally. Their caudal, dorsal, and pectoral fins and the outer half of their pelvic fins are black. They have a short snout with a small blunt mouth and a slightly projecting lower jaw. The lower beak of juveniles extends into a short beak. Their anal fin has 14 to 16 rays; their caudal fin is strongly forked with the lower lobe being larger than the upper lobe; their dorsal fin has 13 to 15 rays; their pectoral fins are about one-third of the body length and reach the origin of the pelvic fins; and their pelvic fins are short with their origin closer to the anal fin origin than to the pectoral fin origin. They have 28 to 34 gill rakers. Their lateral line is low on the body and they are covered with large smooth scales.

The Smallwing Flyingfish are an oceanic pelagic species normally found far out at sea on the surface to depths of 20 feet. They reach a maximum length of 22.0 cm (8.7 inches). They feed on planktonic organisms and small fish. In turn they are preyed upon by birds, dolphins, dolphinfish, marlins, porpoises, squids, and tuna. Their pectoral fins are of modest length and allow them to leap and glide limited distances above the ocean surface. Reproduction is oviparous with the release of large sticky filaments that attach to floating or benthic weeds. They are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Smallwing Flyingfish are found in all waters of the Pacific with the exception that they are absent from Magdalena Bay northward along the central and northwest coast of Baja and from north of La Paz in the Sea of Cortez.

The Smallwing Flyingfish, due to its relatively short pectoral fins, is straightforward to identify. It can be confused with the Sharpchin Flyingfish, Fodiator acutus (projecting snout; longer pectoral fins).

Smallwing Flyingfish (1)Smallwing Flyingfish (2)

Smallwing Flyingfish, Oxyhamphus micropterus. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, August 2008. Length: 19 cm (7.5 inches). Photos of this species are exceedingly rare.