Mudskippers in the Mangroves

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Along the northern shores of Kwa Zulu Natal in South Africa, there’s a place of constant shift and change: the mangroves. Perfectly positioned between the sea and a series of lakes, this unique place makes it possible for diverse ecosystems to flourish side by side.

Within this finely-balanced environment there lives the strange mudskipper, a fish that spends most of its life out of the water. It has adapted to walk on land by using its muscular pectoral fins as primitive legs. The mudskipper’s lower fins have sucker-like discs, enabling the fish to cling to mangrove tree roots.

But how is it possible for fish to breathe out of water? Well, mudskippers have enlarged gill chambers in their body that hold oxygen-rich water. As a scuba diver uses an air tank to breathe underwater, a mudskipper carries water to breathe in the air.

Mudskippers will crawl over mudflats to court mates, find food and locate territories. These fish have bulging, independently-moving eyes, giving them an excellent field of vision. Male mudskippers have been known to open their mouths, raise fins and wrestle one another over prime real estate or to impress a female. Here’s a glimpse of a mudskipper battle:

You can learn more about the mudskipper species in this National Geographic video:

Discover more about animals that call the mangroves home – like buffalo, hippos, vipers and crocodiles – on tonight’s show Secrets of the Mangroves at 8 PM et/pt on Nat Geo Wild!

Video Preview: “Walking Fish” — The mudskipper is a masterpiece of evolution – an amazing little fish that actually walks on land.