The Ruler of the Mud, the Mudskipper
By: Santi Marina
What are these shy creatures and fast moving hoppers? They look like fish, but how can they spend their time out of water?
Mudskippers (Vertebrates: Fish – Family Gobiidae)
Here is what I learned from an expert and a friend, Ms. Wang Luan Keng, the Nature Workshop Singapore and from a book “A Guide to Mangroves of Singapore” by Peter K.L. Ng and N. Sivasothi (editors).
These creatures are mudskippers. Mudskippers are uniquely adapted because they breathe by holding water in their mouth and gill chamber, replacing it with fresh water when it becomes deoxygenated. They can also breathe through their wet skin. These mudskippers look more comfortable crawling around and hopping on the mud than submerged in water.
A Mudskipper in the mangrove area at Telunas Beach Resort
Mudskippers have interesting features designed to help them rule the mud. When we observe closely, we can see that the mudskipper has a pair of muscular leg-like pectoral fins that enable them to crawl over the mud, and even climb trees. They have eyes at the top of their head for an all-around view. The eyes on the top of their heads provide excellent eyesight that allows them to spot prey and predators from afar. Mudskippers avoid marine predators by digging deep burrows in soft sediment during the high tide. They submerge and burrow for lying as well. Also their mouth faces downwards to feed on the mud surface. Mudskippers are predatory, feeding on small crabs, worms and insects. They emerge when the tide recedes to graze on algae and detritus by moving their mouth sideways over mud.
Ng, P.K.L. & N. Sivasothi (eds.). A guide to the mangroves of Singapore II: Animal diversity. 2nd ed. Singapore: Singapore Science Centre, 2002. Print.
Wang, Luan-Keng. Personal Communication. 2012