Episode 322 – Striped Marlin: High Speed Coordination

“…and today we’re talking about the tiger torpedo. But more on that later.”

Living life as a living torpedo has its upsides. Feeling the current on your scales as you dart toward a school of tasty fish mackerel must be second to none. However, it comes with its challenges. The striped marlin is a sword-tipped sea projectile that swims faster than most other animals. But what happens when it aims at the same food as its friends and finds itself in front of the bullseye? Coordination is often the name of the game in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Description of the Striped Marlin

  • Marlins are large, sleek fish
  • Long bodies and pointed bill, which sets it apart from other billfish species.
  • Its body is sleek and cylindrical, designed for swift movement through the water. The most notable feature is its striking coloration, which gives the species its name. Dark blue to black on the upper portion of the body, it is adorned with a series of vertical blue stripes along its sides, which fade into a silvery-white belly. 
  • The dorsal fin is tall, providing stability during high-speed pursuits. Its pectoral fins are relatively small in comparison to its body size but are essential for steering and maneuvering. The caudal peduncle, where the body meets the tail, is robust and powerful, facilitating rapid bursts of acceleration when hunting prey.
  • One of the most striking features of the Striped Marlin is its elongated bill, known as a “sword.” This bill is flat and spear-like, extending from the front of the head and tapering to a fine point. It is used both as a weapon to stun prey and as a tool for slashing through schools of fish during feeding frenzies.

Measure Up

Welcome to the beloved Measure Up segment. The official listener’s favorite part of the show! The part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words Measure Up into ldtaxonomy at gmail dot com. We don’t have a new Measure Up intro!

Marlins in the culture: Famous Marlin, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez is inducted into the baseball hall of fame in 2017, most notably for his role as the catcher on the 2003 World Series team and a clutch play at the plate in the playoffs. 


  • 2.9 meters (9.5 feet) to 4.2 meters (13.8 feet)
  • How many striped marlins go into the distance of Giancarlo Stanton’s record home run at Coors Field in Colorado in 2016.
  • Hint: Stanton hit the longest home run in Miami Marlins history in a game against the Rockies at Coors Field. The ballpark is known for far home runs, with notable homers from Mike Piazza and fellow Marlin Jesus Sanchez. Denver’s high altitude creates thin air, which balls can really sail through. However, the longest home run in baseball history wasn’t even hit in an MLB game. It was hit at Mile High Stadium, home of the Broncos and periodic host of triple-A baseball games. The hit by Denver Zephyr, Joey Meyer, went an astonishing 582 feet. However, he only played two seasons for the Brewers before getting a regular day job in Maui.
  • 36.5 stripped marlins. Stanton’s hit went 504 feet.


  • 220 kilograms (490 pounds)
  • How many baseballs go into the weight of a Marlin?
  • Hint: Baseballs used in MLB games require precise dimensions. They must have a circumference between 9 and 9.35 inches (22.86 to 23.50 centimeters) and a diameter of 2.86 to 2.94 inches (73 to 75 millimeters). Rawlings Sporting Goods have been the exclusive supplier of MLB balls since 1977.
  • 1,568 Baseballs. A ball is 5 ounces. 

Fast Facts about the Striped Marlin

  • Range:  epipelagic, residing away from shore but near the surface of the water in temperate or tropical regions around the world
  • Diet:
    •  sardines, mackerel, small tuna, and cephalopods – loves to eat humboldt squid!
  • Behavior:
    • Can live up to 10 years
    • During spawning events, females release up to 120 million eggs

Major Fact: High Speed Coordination

Marlins are lighting fast when they are hunting, reaching speeds of up to 80 miles per hour. The black marlin is the fastest fish in the ocean. But when they are hunting with friends, they have a bit of a problem. How do they avoid accidentally spearing each other when going for the same school of fish?

When hunting in groups, individual marlins take turns attacking schools of prey fish one at a time. How do they know when it’s their turn? Recent research using drone footage has discovered that they signal one other by rapidly changing their colors when they are about to go in for an attack. They have color changing chromatophores that switch between dark blue colors and bright lavender stripes. After the attack, the stripes return to their ‘non-bright’ coloration. 

Since they are observed regularly changing color right before an attack, signaling and coordinating attacks is the leading theory as to why the marlins change colors. However, they may also do this to confuse their prey.

By altering their appearance, marlins may disorient the prey fish, making them easier targets.

Research is relatively new and there are several unanswered questions including: 

  1. Do marlins use their color-changing abilities in other contexts?
  2. How do these changes affect their prey?
  3. Are similar color changes observed in other predatory fish species?

Ending: So swim really fast, use your noggin sword to catch some sushi, and make sure you’re wearing the right colors for a hunt with ya boys like the Marlin here in LDT.