Mudskippers

An Unusual Amphibious Fish

By Mike Pope
When the summer is hot and long and birds are few and far between, I normally turn my interests to other aspects of biodiversity that Kuwait has to offer, so this week it is a non-birding fishy feature.
 
Mudskippers belong to the Gobie family and are completely amphibious fish. As amphibians, they are uniquely adapted to living in intertidal habitats and are fish that can use their pectoral fins to walk on land. If you get the opportunity to observe them, you will see that they are actually quite active when out of the water with a variety of activities from; feeding, interacting with one another and defending their territories. They are also quite acrobatic and can flip and catapult their bodies up to 2-feet into the air.
 
How do they survive out of the water you may ask and it is a good question? Well, Gobies have the ability to breathe through their skin and the lining in their mouth on condition that their skin stays wet. This is called cutaneous air breathing and is also used by other amphibian species. They have another unique adaption in that they retain a bubble of air in the enlarged gill chambers to further aid breathing out of water.
 
They dig deep burrows in the soft sediment of the intertidal zone – this is for protection from marine predators at high tide as well as from predators like Herons ad Gulls during low tide. It is also used for laying their eggs. The Mudskipper maintains an air pocket inside the burrow which allows them to breathe in very low oxygen conditions.  The biggest, which is featured here is calledBoleophthalmus dussumieri and is  a species native to the Indian Ocean.
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