Wildlife researchers in South Africa were amazed this month to witness an African tigerfish leap out of the water to catch a bird in flight and were lucky enough to get the attack on tape.
The scientists said they'd heard stories for years about fish jumping out of the water to capture birds but had never before had any hard evidence. The tigerfish-on-swallow attack at a lake in South Africa's Mapungubwe National Park is thought to be the first confirmed case of a freshwater fish preying on a bird flying by, according to the journal Nature
"The whole action of jumping and catching the swallow in flight happens so incredibly quickly that after we first saw it, it took all of us a while to really fully comprehend what we had just seen," Nico Smit, director of the Unit for Environmental Sciences and Management at North-West University in South Africa, told Nature. "The first reaction was one of pure joy, because we realized that we were spectators to something really incredible and unique."
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The tigerfish video was posted on YouTube last week and has already skyrocketed to more than half a million views.
"The waters of the African lake seem calm and peaceful," the YouTube description reads. "A few migrant swallows flit near the surface. Suddenly, leaping from the water, a fish grabs one of the famously speedy birds straight out of the air! This swallow-swallowing behavior, long talked about anecdotally, has now been documented by scientists for the first time."
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