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.

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 September 21, 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 September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

AP (Sep. 20, 2014) The San Diego Zoo has welcomed two Cheetah cubs to its Safari Park. The nearly three-week-old female cubs are being hand fed and are receiving around the clock care. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
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:
from the past week

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