Skipping Ahead

August 20, 2010 at 4:19 pm Leave a comment

As the Geckos exhibit nears its end at Fernbank Museum, I am looking forward to our next exhibit:  Water.  In the Water exhibit, we will be hosting a few animals of different varieties including leopard frogs, mudskippers and tetra fish. You’re probably familiar with the likes of leopard frogs, as they are relatives to green frogs and bullfrogs. The tetras are also pretty familiar, being a popular freshwater aquarium pet. The mudskippers are in a league of their own!

Mudskippers come from different areas of the Indo-Pacific, including Australia and Africa. These fish are quite unique compared to other, more familiar fish.  Like frogs and other amphibians, mudskippers spend much of their time out of water to search for food and mates. They are poor swimmers, as their body shapes have adapted to homes in tidal mudflats, where the water recedes daily with the tide. 

Like other fish, mudskippers use their gills to breathe underwater. Above the water, they keep their sensitive gills moistened by holding water in gill chambers. To keep the gills working properly, they simply do a quick eye-roll to keep oxygen moving over the gills. As the gill chambers are closed above water, the mudskippers use other ways to breathe air. They can absorb oxygen through the linings of their mouth, and through their skin. To do so, they must stay moist and will roll in mud and puddles when on land. 

Since “roller” isn’t in their name, one might wonder where the mudskipper name came from; “Mud” because they live in muddy areas to stay moist, and “skippers” because they can actually use their pectoral fins to ‘skip’ across land.  When they’re particularly confident, mudskippers will also launch their bodies up to 2 feet in the air! For those less flippant, the pectoral fins also work for walking on land and have suction cups on the ends to climb low branches and roots. 

Be sure to visit these unique creatures when they skip into the Water, opening October 2! While you’re here, you may also have the opportunity to view our live animal encounters and touch some of our permanent residents. Check the activities sign when you arrive for times and details. 

Lynn Anders, Animal Care Coordinator

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About

At Fernbank Museum, there’s much more than dinosaurs and giant-screen films. Even with our website, e-newsletters, Facebook pages and Twitter updates, there’s still a lot we’d like to share with you. This blog is an opportunity for the people that keep Fernbank running and constantly expanding, to share stories from their point of view. We hope you’ll enjoy these first-hand, behind-the-scenes glimpses of what goes into keeping a world-class natural history museum running. As always, we’d love to hear your feedback on these stories, to hear your personal experiences and hear any suggestions for topics. Happy reading!

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