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Jan 13, 2014 01:04 PM EST

African Tigerfish Recorded Catching Bird Prey in Mid-Flight For First Time Ever (VIDEO)


Researchers have had the pleasure to examine a rare occurrence in the animal kingdom, with footage of an African tigerfish leaping from the water to snatch a bird in flight.

According to Time, the footage is the first to capture this phenomenon, which has been known to happen since the 1940s. The fish has been known to catch birds as they are stationary or moving slowly, but in the video, the tigerfish snatches a swallow, known to be quick and agile in the air.

Watch the video below, but pay close attention, the tigerfish strikes extremely quickly.

"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."

The authors of a study published in the Journal of Fish Biology said this is the first video evidence of a freshwater fish preying on a bird in flight. Unconvinced of the rumored capabilities of these tigerfish, Smit and his team took to a South African lake in the Mapungubwe National Park to examine their migration habitat.

The researchers said they saw as many as 20 successful mid-air strikes per day.

"The African tigerfish is one of the most amazing freshwater species in the world," said Smit, a study co-author, told BBC News. "It is a striking fish with beautiful markings on the body, bright red fins and vicious teeth."

Bass, eels, piranhas and pike are all freshwater fish known to prey on birds that hover slowly or remain motionless on or just above the water. The tigerfish on the other hand, is the first known one to leave the water to catch its prey.

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