The Pacific leaping blenny in Micronesia: Life out of the water

The Pacific leaping blenny in Micronesia: Life out of the water

The Pacific leaping blenny in Micronesia: Life out of the water: Few modern ufabet fish have made the transition from sea to land, but there are some.

The Pacific leaping blenny in Micronesia: Life out of the water

The Pacific leaping blenny in Micronesia: Life out of the water

The chain moray eel can withstand up to 30 minutes out of water when setting up its ambush, and mudskippers use their fins to ‘skip’ across the mud, defending territories amongst the mangroves and courting the opposite sex while the tide is out.

However, the fish that takes terrestrial living to new heights is the Pacific leaping blenny in Micronesia. It spends its entire adult life out of the water in the splash and intertidal zones.

This 8-centimetre-long blenny is beautifully camouflaged, blending in with the algae-covered rocks and therefore hidden from the prying eyes of birds, ufabet, crabs and lizards, all potential predators. It feeds on the slime, using its teeth to scrape it from the rocks, and has a preference for algae freshly exposed by the outgoing tide.

The fish are most active for up to 4 hours at mid-tide, mainly during the day when it is not too hot. At high tide, with waves crashing against the shore, they cling to rocks or hide in crevices, and at low water they retreat into damp corners to retain moisture, but at mid-tide groups of blennies might line up at the edge of the sea like children dodging the waves ready to feed, and they have a unique way of getting about.

If a predator should detect them or a large wave disturb them, they can leap out of the way to higher ground – hence their common name. The secret is in the tail. It can be twisted through 90 degrees, enabling the fish to propel ufabet itself with considerable agility from one place to another. Only then, Miles Barton discovered, do they reveal where they are.

At first sight, the blennies are so well camouflaged that they are almost invisible against the brown rocks. It’s only when a wave comes in that you see the flashes of silver, as the sun reflects off their bodies. If you watch really closely, you can see how they flatten their ufabet oar-like tails and push them against the rock to propel themselves into the air.’

The movement of the tail also enables them to leap from one hollow to the next in order to find a partner. This fish is so well adapted to the terrestrial lifestyle that it socialises, courts and lays its eggs on land.

The Pacific leaping blenny presents an opportunity to discover in a living animal how a transition from water to land might have taken place, offering Dr Ord and his colleagues a unique window on the past, a snapshot of evolution in action.