Meet an animal that constantly moves between land and water, living life on the edge – literally. The slender mudskipper (Periophthalmus gracilis) is an amphibious animal that can be found in the new mangrove exhibit located in the Tropics gallery at the Aquarium.

One of the first things people notice about the slender mudskipper is its uniquely shaped periscopic eyes. These close-set, moveable eyes are positioned at the top of the slender mudskipper’s head, providing it with a 360 degree view of its surroundings. Since mudskippers spend a lot of time out of the water, they are also capable of retracting and moistening their eyes – making them the only fish on Earth that can blink!

Slender Mudskipper, Vancouver Aquarium.

It’s all in the eyes of the slender mudskipper. Photo credit: Lee Newman

Slender mudskippers have adapted behaviours to make the best of their living conditions, which include fluctuations in temperature, humidity and salinity. A mudskipper will leave the water and allow its body to cool down through evaporation to cope with an increase in water temperature. Should it lose too much moisture this way, the slender mudskipper will then dive back into the water to get wet again. If there isn’t a pool nearby, the mudskipper will instead roll in wet mud to keep cool.

Slender mudskippers are also proficient burrowers. They dig deep burrows into sand, and seek refuge in their burrows from predators and cold temperatures. They also avoid predators by leaping for safety. Unlike most fishes, they’re lousy swimmers and are more likely to skip along looking for food using their arm-like side fins to propel themselves.

Because they spend so much time on land, mudskippers need to be able to breathe air. They have a rich network of capillaries just under their skin that allows oxygen to diffuse into the blood and carbon dioxide to be released.

You’ll spot the slender mudskippers often on the rocks and branches located just above the water’s edge in the exhibit. Smaller guests can poke their head under the exhibit and peak in through a special viewing bubble.

The mangrove exhibit is a new display as part of the Aquarium’s recent expansion. Additional details on other new exhibits, spaces and our conservation efforts are found at vanaqua.org/the-big-reveal.

Last Week’s Featured Animal: The Pacific spiny lumpsucker.

Each week throughout the summer a new animal will be featured on the AquaBlog focusing on new and unusual marine life at the Vancouver Aquarium. Stay up to date on the latest fish news by subscribing to our RSS feed or following us on Facebook or Twitter.

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