Sailfish Speed and Agility Investigated in Study

Study finds sailfish are more agile than speedy when feeding on prey

Long thought to be one of the fastest fish in the ocean, a new study reveals Sailfish rely on agility when seeking their prey.

Speed or Agility?

Long thought to be one of the fastest fish in the ocean, a new study reveals Sailfish rely on agility when seeking their prey.Doug Perrine

A recent study published in the journal Integrative and Comparative Biology, titled "Not So Fast: Swimming Behavior of Sailfish during Predator-Prey Interactions Using High-Speed Video and Accelerometry," evaluated swimming behavior of feeding billfish, largely considered some of the fastest swimmers in the oceans. A sailfish's speed rarely exceeds 5 mph, but one would expect speeds to be far greater when hunting prey. Using high-frequency accelerometry and high-speed video observations during predator-prey ­interactions, the researchers found sailfish to burst at speeds of about 16 mph and not exceed 22 mph during these interactions.

These sailfish speeds are lower than previous estimates and further demonstrate that billfish benefit from their morphological adaptations and higher performances in turning and accelerating than their prey. The researchers also measured the oscillation of the bill during swimming, with and without extension of the dorsal fin — the sail of a sailfish. They suggest the extension of the dorsal fin might improve the control of the fish’s bill by minimizing yaw and increasing ­accuracy when ­hunting prey.