What Is a Mudskipper?
Mudskippers are small tropical fish of the eastern Atlantic, the Indian Ocean and the western Pacific from Australia to Japan. They live in estuaries with mud banks and also in mangrove swamps.
They typically live in intertidal habitats, and exhibit unique adaptations to this environment that are not found in most intertidal fishes, which typically survive the retreat of the tide by hiding under wet seaweed or in tide pools.
Mudskippers are quite active when out of water, feeding and interacting with one another, for example, to defend their territories and court potential partners. Their eyes protrude from their heads and can be moved independently of each other. Mudskipper needs to roll its eyeballs into the sockets filled with water and to refresh face and gills with water to prevent dehydration during the low tide.
When the mud is exposed by the ebbing of the tide the mudskippers come out of the water and hunt for crustaceans and other small invertebrates. They crawl and hop about rapidly with the help of their powerful muscular pectoral fins which they use as forelegs.
Their gill openings are small and they can live on land for hours at a time, providing the air is humid. Mudskipper is also able to jump 2 feet in the air and climb on various structures thanks to sucker-like pelvic fins.
Some species of mudskippers dig burrows in the mud. Burrows are usually J, U or V-shaped and have entrance below the surface of the water. Since burrows are poorly ventilated, mudskipper occasionally releases air bubbles into the burrow to increase the level of the oxygen. Mudskipper is territorial animal. It builds low, wall-like ridges to mark the borders of its territory.
Throat and chin of male mudskippers becomes golden colored during the breeding season. Males perform push-ups and jump high in the air and expose their dorsal fins before they return into the water to impress females. Female deposits eggs inside the specially designed chamber within the burrow.
Male guards the eggs until they hatch. Some mudskippers release eggs into the water. Mudskippers can be kept as pets. They can be trained to take food from the hands of their keepers. Mudskippers can survive more than 5 years in the wild.
How do mudskippers live out of water?
Mudskippers are able to extract oxygen from different parts of their body. Recent research has found mudskippers don’t use their gills for oxygen exchange, but use their skin for a large part of their oxygen processing.
They use their gill filaments to exchange ammonia. Mudskippers must always keep their mouths and skin moist, since the oxygen needs to diffuse with water before they can absorb it.