Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How legless, leaping fish living on land avoids predators

Date:
December 2, 2013
Source:
University of New South Wales
Summary:
One of the world's strangest animals -- a legless, leaping fish that lives on land -- uses camouflage to avoid attacks by predators such as birds, lizards and crabs, new research shows. Researchers studied the unique fish -- Pacific leaping blennies -- in their natural habitat on the tropical island of Guam. These terrestrial fish spend all of their adult lives living on the rocks in the splash zone.

A male Pacific leaping blenny, Alticus arnoldorum, in Guam. These terrestrial fishes spend all their adult lives on land, on the rocks in the splash zone. They use a tail-twisting behavior to leap about.
Credit: Courtney Morgans/UNSW

One of the world's strangest animals -- a legless, leaping fish that lives on land -- uses camouflage to avoid attacks by predators such as birds, lizards and crabs, new research shows.

Related Articles


UNSW researchers, Dr Terry Ord and Courtney Morgans, of the Evolution and Ecology Research Centre, studied the unique fish -- Pacific leaping blennies -- in their natural habitat on the tropical island of Guam.

Their study will be published in the journal Animal Behaviour.

"This terrestrial fish spends all of its adult life living on the rocks in the splash zone, hopping around defending its territory, feeding and courting mates. They offer a unique opportunity to discover in a living animal how the transition from water to the land has taken place," says Dr Ord, of the UNSW School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences.

The researchers first measured the colour of five different populations of the fish around the island and compared this with the colour of the rocks they lived on. "They were virtually identical in each case. The fish's body colour is camouflaged to match the rocks, presumably so they aren't obvious to predators," says Dr Ord.

To see if background matching reduced predation, the researchers created realistic-looking models of blennies out of plasticine. "We put lots of these model blennies on the rocks where the fish live, as well as on an adjacent beach where their body colour against the sand made them much more conspicuous to predators," says Dr Ord.

"After several days we collected the models and recorded how often birds, lizards and crabs had attacked them from the marks in the plasticine. We found the models on the sand were attacked far more frequently than those on the rocks.

"This means the fish are uniquely camouflaged to their rocky environments and this helps them avoid being eaten by land predators." The researchers then studied the body colour of closely related species of fish, some of which lived in the water and some of which were amphibious, sharing their time between land and sea.

"These species provide an evolutionary snapshot of each stage of the land invasion by fish," says Dr Ord. The similarities in colour between these species and the land-dwelling fish suggest the ancestors of the land-dwelling fish already had a colouration that matched the rocky shoreline before they moved out of the water, which would have made it easier for them to survive in their new habitat.

The Pacific leaping blenny, Alticus arnoldorum, is about four to eight centimetres long and leaps using a tail-twisting behaviour. It remains on land all its adult life but has to stay moist to be able to breathe through its gills and skin.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of New South Wales. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Courtney L. Morgans, Terry J. Ord. Natural selection in novel environments: predation selects for background matching in the body colour of a land fish. Animal Behaviour, 2013; 86 (6): 1241 DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.09.027

Cite This Page:

University of New South Wales. "How legless, leaping fish living on land avoids predators." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 December 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131202105303.htm>.
University of New South Wales. (2013, December 2). How legless, leaping fish living on land avoids predators. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131202105303.htm
University of New South Wales. "How legless, leaping fish living on land avoids predators." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131202105303.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) The new year is coming and nothing will energize you more for 2015 than protein-filled foods. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) gives his favorite high protein foods that will help you build muscle, lose fat and have endless energy. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins