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Phylum Chordata > Subphylum Vertebrate > fishes > Family Gobiidae
Mudskippers
Family Gobiidae
updated Nov 13

if you learn only 3 things about them ...
They are fishes but can breathe out of water. How do they do it?
They use their pectoral fins to crawl.
They are well camouflaged. Watch your step!

Where seen? Mudskippers are commonly seen on many of our shores. They are particularly abundant in mangroves and muddy shores, but are also seen on rocky shores and near reefs.

What are mudskippers? Often mistaken for frogs or snakes, mudskippers are actually fish that breathe with gills. Mudskippers belong to the Family Gobiidae and include these four genera Boleophthalmus, Periophthalmus, Periophthalmadon and Scartelaos.

Features: Those seen about 6-12cm, some species can be much larger or smaller. Mudskippers are well adapted to the intertidal area. Being able to stay of water for a while gives mudskippers an advantage over 'normal' fishes. During low tide, they are among the few marine creatures that can exploit the dry muddy or sandy flats.
More about how to tell apart small mudskippers commonly found on our shores.

Fish out of water? How do they breathe out of water? While out of water, they breathe by retaining water in enlarged gill chambers. Just as we bring tanks of air to breathe from when we scuba dive, mudskippers bring stores of water. They can also breathe air through their wet skin. These fish are in fact more comfortable crawling around on the mud than submerged in water!

Masters of the mudflats: Mudskippers have interesting features designed to rule the mud! They have eyes at the top of the head for an all-round view. While their mouth faces downwards to feed on the mud surface. In some mudskippers, the pelvic fins are fused to form a sucker so they can better cling to rocks and roots. Their pectoral fins are used like crutches to crawl over mud. Some have colourful dorsal fins that can be raised to signal other mudskippers on the sand or mudflats.

How do mudskippers skip? They curl their muscular body sideways then push against the mud to spring forward. The Bearded mudskipper (Scartelaos histophorus) can 'stand' on its tail, if only for a brief moment, in an attempt to impress the ladies.

Human uses: The Giant mudskipper (Periophthalmodon schlosseri) is eaten in some places such as Taiwan. They are caught with nets strung at ground level, or with cast-nets.

Status and threats: The Giant mudskipper (Periophthalmodon schlosseri) is listed among the threatened animals of Singapore, mainly due to habitat loss. Our other mudskippers are not listed as endangered. However, like other creatures of the intertidal zone, they are affected by human activities such as reclamation and pollution.

Bulbous eyes high on the head.
Kusu Island, Jun 05


Dorsal fin often colourful and raised
to communicate with other mudskippers.
Chek Jawa, Dec 09



These fishes can be quite quarrelsome.
Chek Jawa, Oct 07

A tunnel at the base of the 'swimming pool'.
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Feb 12

Mudskipper tracks on the mud.
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, Feb 12

Mudskippers on Singapore shores



Mudskippers recorded for Singapore
from Wee Y.C. and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore.
*from Larson, Helen K and Kelvin K. P. Lim. 2005. A Guide to Gobies of Singapore.
+from our observation.

  Family Gobiidae (NOT all members of Family Gobiidae are mudskippers)
  *Apocryptodon madurensis (Spotted mudskipper)

*Boleophthalmus boddarti
(Blue-spotted mudskipper)

*Parapocryptes serperaster
(Serpent mudskipper)

*Periophthalmodon schlosseri
(Giant mudskipper)

*Periophthalmus argentilineatus
(Silver-lined mudskipper)
Periophthalmus chrysospilos
(Gold-spotted mudskipper)
*Periophthalmus gracilis
(Slender mudskipper)
Periophthalmus novemradiatus
(Pearse's mudskipper)
+Periophthalmus variabilis
(Dusky-gilled mudskipper)
*Periophthalmus walailakae
(Yellow-spotted mudskipper)

*Pseudapocryptes borneensis
(Borneo lanceolate mudskipper)
*Pseudapocryptes elongatus
(Elongate mudskipper)
*Pseudapocryptes lanceolatus

*Scartelaos histophorus
(Bearded mudskipper)

Links
References
  • Larson, Helen K and Kelvin K. P. Lim. 2005. A Guide to Gobies of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre. 164pp.
  • Mastaller, Michael, 1997. Mangroves: The Forgotten Forest Between Land and Sea. Tropical Press, Malaysia, 200 pp.
  • Field, Colin, 1995. Journey among Mangroves. International Society for Mangrove Ecosystems, 139 pp.
  • Stafford-Deitsch, Jeremy, 1996. Mangrove: The Forgotten Habitat. Immel Publishing, London. 277 pp.
  • Wee Y.C. and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore. National Council on the Environment. 163pp.
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