For Vivian Judge, membership manager at Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, mudskippers will forever be associated with Canadian actor Alan Thicke of Growing Pains fame. (For you younger folk, he’s musician Robin Thicke’s dad.) She says, “I’m nostalgic when I look at these extraordinary fish. I saw them for the first time on Alan Thicke’s celebrity game show Animal Crack-Ups when I was eight years old, and they left quite an impression on me.” That’s why she nominated the slender mudskipper (Periophthalmus gracilis) for February’s Staff Pick of the Month.

The slender mudskipper is just one of about 40 different types of mudskippers living in the Indo-Pacific and Africa. This particular species is found in the mangrove swamps of Southeast Asia.

A slender mudskipper's pectoral fins act like hands grasping onto this branch. Photo: Lee Newman

A slender mudskipper’s pectoral fins act like hands grasping onto this branch. Photo: Lee Newman

Vivian loves seeing the slender mudskippers from inside the exhibit dome. That’s where you can get a close look at how they hold on using their modified side (pectoral) fins. They also use their fins to propel themselves forward, which can make it look like they’re “skipping” along.

Despite the visitor traffic around this exhibit, Vivian says, “I’m not sure people really appreciate the uniqueness of these fish.” Mudskippers walk on land, can breathe air and may be the only fish that can blink! Lucky for Vivian, Alan Thicke was there to show her how cool these fish really are.

Written by Karen Glanzberg, writer-editor, content and digital experience at the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre.

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