Mudskipper (subfamily Oxudercinae)

I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about mudskippers yet. They are such a unique and weird group of fish that they definitely deserve a spot on this blog. After all, any fish that skips around on land without a care in the world is worth writing about.

There are about 41 species of mudskipper, in the subfamily Oxudercinae. They are found in coastal areas of Africa and the Indo-Pacific. Thanks to their ability to do well out of water, mudskippers are able to thrive in changing habitats, such as mangrove forests and intertidal areas. They can be found in freshwater, saltwater, or brackish water, depending on the species.

Mudskippers vary in size from 7 cm to 25 cm, again, depending on the species. As their name suggests, mudskippers are often found in muddy areas. To help camouflage themselves in these habitats, they are often a simple brown colour. Their eyes are located  at the top of their heads, which allows mudskippers to see both above and below water at once. The eyes can move independently of one another, giving the fish a broad field of vision.

GambianMudskippers

Two mudskippers hanging out, enjoying their time on land. Image credit: Bjorn Christian Torrissen via Wikipedia

As you can imagine, mudskippers have to have a number of adaptations to make their lifestyle viable. One of the most notable of these are mudskippers’ pectoral fins. These fins are long and have a kind of ‘joint’ in them, which allows the fins to act like legs. Very muscular tails also help mudskippers move on land; using their tails to propel themselves, mudskippers can ‘skip’, launching themselves up to 60 cm.

The second set of adaptations mudskippers possess have to do with breathing. Like amphibians, mudskippers can breathe through their skin, as well as through the lining of their mouths. This type of breathing only works when the skin and mouth are wet, which means mudskippers can’t survive in non-humid environments. When mudskippers leave water for land, they fill their gill chambers with water, which gives them an extra source of oxygen while on land.

Mudskipper_on_Praslin_Seychelles

A slightly prettier species of mudskipper. It’s still well camouflaged though! Image credit: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen via Wikipedia

Mudskippers dig burrows while they are on land, to keep themselves safe from predators, to thermoregulate, and for reproductive purposes. The burrows are dug so at least part of them is submerged, but often this water has very low oxygen concentrations. Mudskippers work around this by gulping oxygen and releasing it into the burrow.

Male mudskippers display to attract females, using a combination of manly push-ups and acrobatic leaps into the  air. If a female mudskipper is impressed by a male’s antics, she will waltz back to his burrow, and the two will mate. The female then lays her eggs on the roof of the burrow, and leaves. Male mudskippers are responsible for guarding and aerating the eggs.

It never ceases to amaze me how adaptable animals are. Fish that spend a significant portion of their time out of water have got to be some of the coolest animals around. I’m a big fan of them, anyway.

Cover image credit: H. Krisp via Wikipedia

Red-Lipped Batfish (Ogcocephalus darwini)

There are some very, very strange animals in the world. Unfortunately many of these animals live in wonderful and strange places, and so are difficult to study. Most of the time when I want to blog about one of these creatures, I choose not to, because there’s just not enough information to make a decent post. Still, sometimes an animal is just too cool, and I can’t resist. Such is the case with animal of today, the red-lipped batfish.

There are two different families of batfish, but the one to which the red-lipped fellow belongs is Ogcocephalidae. They are bottom-dwelling deep sea lovers, and are called batfish because of their flattened bodies. The red-lipped batfish is even more descriptively named, as it has stylish bright red lips. They are pretty fabulous. Red-lipped batfish live on the sea floor near that ecological wonder, the Galapagos Islands. Is it any surprise then, that they are probably some of the weirdest fish out there?

You are not a normal person if you don't think this fish looks strange.

You are not a normal person if you don’t think this fish looks strange. Image source: factspod.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/red-lipped-batfish.html

They are a little like anglerfish, who use a lure to attract prey. Unlike anglerfish, however, the batfish does not have a luminescent lure. Instead, a horny projection on top of its head releases chemicals that are thought to attract prey. The red lips of the batfish have an unknown function, although there is a theory that they help with recognition of other batfish and with mating. Who wouldn’t want to mate with this:

 

Red Lipped Batfish

Image credit: Birgitte Wilms, National Geographic

 

By far the strangest thing about the red-lipped batfish is its method of locomotion. Despite being fish and living in water their whole lives, red-lipped batfish are terrible swimmers. They don’t even bother with it. Instead, they use modified pectoral and pelvic fins to ‘walk’ along the sea floor. It looks pretty ridiculous. But I guess it suits these guys, for they seem to do fairly well, and are not currently threatened or endangered.

So there you have it, probably one of the weirdest fish you’ll ever hear of. I go out of my way to find strange animals and still can’t get over how ridiculous the red-lipped batfish is. Hopefully you now appreciate them as much as I do!

Cover image source: http://thediveshack.blogspot.ca/2012/10/creature-feature-rosy-lipped-batfish.html