Fish Keep Falling from Sky Onto Same Town and Experts Aren't Sure Why

It hasn't been raining cats and dogs in a remote Australian outback town: Instead, it's been raining fish.

The strange fishy rain fell over the town of Lajamanu, a small community in the arid Northern Territory, around 560 miles south of Darwin. Strangely, the same town has seen deluges of fish four times in the past 30 years, most recently in 2010, the Daily Mail reported.

"We've seen a big storm heading up to my community and we thought it was just rain," Lajamanu local and Central Desert councillor Andrew Johnson Japanangka told Australian ABC News.

"But when the rain started falling we've seen fish falling down as well."

small fish in hands
A man holds out small fish in Mboro Kandio on November 2, 2021 after they were killed by acid waste. In Australia, many small freshwater fish fell from the skies during a rainstorm. Photo by JOHN WESSELS/AFP via Getty Images

The fish themselves, determined by Queensland Museum ichthyologist Jeff Johnson to be spangled perch, were around the size of a child's palm. Having fallen overnight, the community awoke to find them scattered around the town, many of them still alive.

"Some are still hanging around in the community in a puddle of water. Children are picking them up and keeping them in a bottle or a jar," Japanangka said.

Spangled perch, also known as spangled grunters, are one of the most common and widespread species of freshwater fish in Australia. They can grow to lengths of 10 inches, though typically measure around 6 inches long.

While the reason behind this downpour of fish is not known, the town has actually experienced this same phenomenon before multiple times, in 2010, in 2004, and the 1980s. During the 2010 event, the fish that fell on the town were the same species: spangled perch.

"I got up in the morning, I was working in the school at the time, and the dirt streets outside my home were covered in fish," Alice Springs local Penny McDonald who was in Lajamanu during the the mid-1980s fish rain event, told ABC News. "They were small fish and there were a lot of them around. It was just amazing."

Fish falling from the sky, while unexpected, is something that has been seen before various times, with other animals like frogs, bats, worms, and spiders also having rained down in certain cases.

frog rain
Rain of frogs recorded in 1355 (1557). Accounts of deluges of frogs and fish date back to biblical times. The phenomenon ocurs when a waterspout or tornado passes over a body of water and sucks the water, and whatever may be in it, up into the air, dropping it later elsewhere. From Prodigiorum ac ostentorum chronicon by Conrad Lycosthenes. (Basel, 1557). Photo by Oxford Science Archive/Print Collector/Getty Images

The exact reasons behind animal rain aren't always clear, although one leading theory suggests that the animals may have been swept up into a waterspout—tornado-like columns of fast-moving air that form over water bodies—and carried long distances through the atmosphere.

A Library of Congress report states that waterspouts are powerful enough to suck small animals into the vortex.

"I've seen small ponds literally emptied of their water by a passing tornado. So, it wouldn't be unreasonable for frogs (or other living things) to 'rain' from the skies," Ernest Agee from Purdue University said in the Library of Congress report.

After being swept into the air, the theory goes that the animals are flung vast distances over land, eventually falling back to Earth far from their original homes.

This is thought to be the reason behind the 2021 Texarkana animal rain event.

Other theories for the Texarkana fish deluge included that they had been spat up by birds flying overhead. This explanation was also given in 2022, when San Francisco saw thousands of anchovies dropping from the sky.

Lajamanu is very far inland, and at the edge of a desert, meaning that it is not particularly close to any large bodies of water. One other theory for the fish appearing out of nowhere is that they didn't fall from the sky, but were rather washed into the town by a flood.

"Most of the time people arrive after the rain and see the fish scattered everywhere," curator of fishes at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, Michael Hammer, told ABC News.

"And in that instance they've mostly just burst through with the flood that's happened locally, from a little waterhole or something. But it certainly can't rule out fish being caught up in little storms and then dropped in other places."

Hammer told ABC News that Australia appears to be seeing increased occurrences of strange weather phenomena like this. He urges locals to keep an eye out for these bizarre events so that they can be better documented and the reasons behind them can be properly studied.

"I think next time it rains you just need to be out there with a net, catching the fish as they fall, and properly document it," he said.

"Get some citizen science going and start to build a picture."

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