Meet Dactylopterus volitans, more commonly known as the flying gurnard! This incredible footage was captured by diver Bob Blauvelt while he was exploring an area known as Blue Heron Bridge in South Florida in the US.


The gurnard's giant pectoral fins look dangerous ... and that’s the point! When threatened, these incredible fish fan them out to scare off predators. The fins also come in handy for  "walking" along the ocean floor or poking around in the sand for food.

The fish are often followed by two opportunistically feeding friends: the yellow jack and the coney, both algae eaters that benefit from the flying gurnard's habit of churning up algea tufts.

The name "gurnard" comes from the French word for "grunt", which is apt as the fish are known to emit growling sounds through their swim bladder. However, flying gurnards don't actually fly – although some sources claim they can glide above the surface for brief stints using their large pectorals.

Although their conservation status hasn’t been evaluated, flying gurnards are fairly abundant, and not commercially fished, except in Senegal (where they are sold under the name "chicken"). And don’t worry, despite being distant cousins of the deadly scorpionfish, there’s no venom present here.

Want to go out and find a flying gurnard yourself? You’re in luck! This fish gets around, hanging out off the coast of North and South America, Africa and Europe. But if diving isn’t your thing, here’s a list of public aquariums with Dactylopterus volitans on display. 

Top header: Kevin Bryant, Flickr