In the sun soaked land of Goa, riding on a boat over the tidal waters of the river Zuari, we were looking for birds, more specifically , the kingfishers. That’s when we noticed something hopping up and down on the mudflats, very close to the water’s edge. We thought of taking a diversion and examining as to what it could be. Getting closer, we realized that they were Mudskippers, those lovely amphibious fish. Had always wished to see them and this was my first encounter. The moment I saw them, my heart leapt with excitement and I instantly fell in love with the springy, lively beauties. It was indeed, love at first sight… :-)
Mudskippers are fundamentally fish, but have developed some amazing adaptations to be able to live both on land and in water, thus becoming completely amphibious.
Mudskippers are members of the subfamily Oxudercinae, within the family Gobiidae (Gobies). They are completely amphibious fish, fish that can use their pectoral fins to walk on land. Being amphibious, they are uniquely adapted to intertidal habitats, unlike most fish in such habitats which survive the retreat of the tide by hiding under wet seaweed or in tidal pools. Mudskippers are quite active when out of water, feeding and interacting with one another, for example to defend their territories.
These are indeed very lively fish, displaying a lot of characteristic behavior on land. As their name implies, they do move about on land by skipping around using their fins as legs. They don’t seem to sit idle at a place. This is what makes them so lively and I am entranced by them for this reason. One could spend hours on end sitting and observing them :-)
To lead their amphibious lifestyle, mudskippers, when in water, breathe with their gills as most fish do. Before climbing out onto land, they fill their over-sized gill chambers with water, creating an oxygen tank that allows them to breathe out of water. On land, these fish also moisten their gills periodically by wiping them with their fins. To get additional air, mudskippers can also breathe through their blood capillary-rich skin, and blood-rich membranes in the back of the mouth and throat. They often keep their tails in water and roll in puddles to keep their skin moist.
They live in small burrows, which they build on the mudflats by excavating the mud out with their mouths. Also read that the males build these homes and the females follow the males into them as a mark of their acceptance.
A male looks out of his little home………
Another interesting thing about these are their bulging, mufti-colored eyes.
Internally, their protuberant eyes have cones above for color vision and rods below for monochromatic vision, allowing the fish to see both above and below water at the same time. ( src: Online Learning Center | Mudskipper )
How amazing is that.!..
When we saw them, there was full on activity going on. Males seemed to be in full glow, very busy , proudly displaying their gorgeous florescent colored fins to impress the females around.
They were vigorously jumping up and down as well. Looked like in addition to mating display, it was territorial display amongst different males too. Using their tail fins, they seemed to thrust themselves up into the air.
There seemed to be intense competition all round, as there were many in number and the females weren’t seemed to be getting impressed very easily.
The females seemed to be very choosy, making very close examinations of the males and their colored accessories, as in the image below.
With some personal one-to-one performances as well………
Indeed, seemed like a lot of effort on the little fish’s part to get his prospective partner to say a ‘yes’
We had spent quite a bit of time with these and it was time for us to move on. But, with so much happening, and I having fallen in love with them :-) , we definitely didn’t want to. However, with a heavy heart and hoping for another date with these lovely little fish, we said adios and headed back on our way.
Further reading on the mudskippers, here’s a lovely article by Radha - Fish Out of Water