Beloniformes are long, silvery streamlined fishes that live near the surface and feed on plankton, small fishes and invertebrates. Species within the group have a variety of jaw lengths and shapes, and most species go through a half-beak stage during development, where the lower jaw is elongated.
Most have a counter-shading colour pattern to avoid being seen by prey and predators. They are greenish to bluish on the back and silvery white on the sides and belly, sometimes with a dusky or darker stripe aloing the sides.
Most species are marine, although some live in brackish and freswater areas. The order comprises five families and four of these are found in Australian waters: needlefishes, flying fishes, halfbeaks and sauries.
The flesh is excellent, and the group contains a number of commercially important species. Some species are regularly traded in the aquarium industry.
Beloniformes means "needle-shaped" from the Greek, belone meaning needle, and the Latin forma meaning shape. The fossil record for the group dates back to the early Tertiary Period.
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