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Nature Life: Mudskipper and Nature

By Obiabin Onukwugha

Mudskippers are any of the 23 extant species of amphibious fish. Mudskipper are found in tropical, subtropical, and temperate regions, including the Indo-Pacific and the Atlantic coast of Africa.

Researchers have discovered that mudskippers spend up to three quarters of their life on land.

They are known for their unusual body shapes, preferences for semi-aquatic habitats, limited terrestrial locomotion and jumping, and the ability to survive prolonged periods of time both in and out of water.

Mudskippers can grow up to 30 cm (12 in) long, and most are a brownish green colour that ranges anywhere from dark to light. Unlike other fish, the mudskipper’s eyes protrude from the top of its flat head.

Their most noticeable feature is their side pectoral fins that are located more forward and under their elongated body. These fins are jointed and function similarly to limbs, which allow the mudskipper to crawl from place to place.

These front fins allow the mudskipper to actively skip across muddy surfaces and even climb low-hanging tree branches and scrubs.

Mudskippers have also been found to be able to leap distances of up to 61 centimetres (24 in) by laterally flexing and pushing with their tails, hence the name.

During mating seasons, the males will also develop brightly coloured spots in order to attract females, which can be red, green or blue.

Once the male has completed digging his burrow he will resurface and will begin attempting to attract a female through assorted yet typical displays. These displays consist of body undulations, different postures and energetic movements.

Once the female has made her choice she will then proceed to follow the male into the burrow where she will lay hundreds of eggs and allow them to be fertilized. After fertilization occurs, the period of cohabitation between the male and female is rather short.

Eventually, the female will leave and it is the male that ends up guarding the egg filled burrow from hungry predators.

The average lifespan of an Atlantic mudskipper is approximately five years.

It is most called Isala/Isila in Niger Delta communities.

Mudskippers are a delight to local dishes in most riverine communities. However, its love for faeces makes it less popular to some persons.

Mudskippers are recognized for their capacity to accumulate metal contaminants, making them valuable bioindicators and monitoring agents for coastal mangrove ecosystems. These mudskippers heavily depend on mangrove roots for feeding, shelter, and breeding grounds for their offspring.

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