Prehistoric-looking fish with legs live among us, climbing trees, arguing over mud patches and crawling across land.
Like something out of a documentary on evolution, the mudskipper is an amphibious fish that walks on land.
The mudskipper holds water in its gills in order to “breathe” out of water. The fish’s pectoral fins act as arms that have well-developed muscles to carry the mudskipper’s body. Using the pectoral fins and tail, the mudskipper crawls and flaps its body across land in search of food. These fish eat spiders and insects – prey that is not usually found in the sea.
Not only can mudskippers walk on land, they can also leap in the air to heights of half a meter (around two feet), by bending and suddenly straightening their bodies. The mudskipper is also known for climbing mangrove trees in search of food. Because of these unusual actions, mudskippers have also been called kangaroo fish, climbing fish, mudhopper and johnny jumpers.
Part of the mudskipper courtship ritual takes place on land, with the male doing ‘push-ups’ to reveal his golden chest and chin to the female.
Mudskippers take in oxygen through the water stored in the gill cavities and through the skin. Because they also breathe through the skin, mudskippers need to remain moist and will often roll in puddles while on land. Their eyes are particularly sensitive to drying out and the mudskipper use a wet fin to dampen them. Another method that the mudskipper uses to moisten its eyes is to retract the eyes into the eye-sockets.
During the Devonian period of evolution, the first fish evolved legs and crawled onto land. This rapid evolution allowed the fish to search for new homes when their previous residence threatened to dry up.
In this photo, the mudskipper “footprints” are the small, round indentations. The other prints were made by birds in the area.
For more pictures and information on mudskippers, visit mudskipper.org