Quirks & Quarks

A Fish That Eats on Land

The mudskipper is a land-dwelling fish with a unique technique for catching prey.
Atlantic Mudskippers (Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, )
Although the mudskipper spends 80 to 90 percent of its life on land, it is, by definition, a fish. It has gills and fins, which it uses like crutches to get around.  And similar to many fish, it does not have a tongue, which would seem to present a problem for feeding on insects and small crustaceans on land. 

But by using high-speed imaging, Krijn Michel, a PhD student in the Department of Biology at the University of Antwerp in Belgium, discovered that the mudskipper has evolved a novel feeding technique. With its mouth full of water, the mudskipper approaches its prey. Then, in one quick motion, it releases some of the water onto the prey in order to be able to suck the prey back into its mouth in a hydrodynamic motion.

The mudskipper has, in effect, made a tongue out of water. This may provide a clue as to how early land animals were also able to feed.

Related Links

Paper in The Royal Society Proceedings B
Nature news story
Not Exactly Rocket Science blog 
Phys.org story

Image copyright Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, cc-by-sa-4.0

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