Short range hunters: exploring the function and constraints of water shooting in dwarf gouramis

Nick A.R. Jones*, Barbara Klump, Teresa Abaurrea, Sophie Harrower, Clare Marr, Louise Scott, Luke Rendell, Mike Webster

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ballistic predation is a rare foraging adaptation: in fishes, most attention has focused on a single genus, the archerfish, known to manipulate water to shoot down prey above the water surface. However, several gourami species also exhibit apparently similar ‘shooting’ behaviour, spitting water up to 5 cm above the surface. In a series of experiments, we explored the shooting behaviour and aspects of its significance as a foraging ability in the dwarf gourami (Trichogaster lalius). We investigated sex differences in shooting abilities to determine whether gourami shooting is related to the sex-specific bubble nest manufacture where males mix air and water at the surface to form bubbles. We found that, actually, both sexes were equally able to shoot and could learn to shoot a novel target. In a second experiment, we presented untrained gouramis with opportunities to shoot at live prey and found they successfully shot down both fruit flies and crickets. Finally, we explored the effect of target height on shooting performance to establish potential constraints of shooting as a foraging ability. The frequency of attempted shots and success of hitting targets decreased with height, whereas latency to shoot increased. We also observed that repeatable individual differences account for variation in these measures of shooting performance. Together, our results provide evidence that gourami shooting has a foraging function analogous to that of archerfish. Gourami shooting may serve as an example of convergent evolution and provide opportunities for comparative studies into the, as yet unexplored, ecology and evolution of shooting in fishes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number243477
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number24
Early online date23 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Ballistic predation
  • Gourami
  • Shooting
  • Trichogaster lalius
  • Foraging adaptation


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