Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. If you stare long enough at a Lungfish or Mudskipper (as I have, often causing my co-workers to wonder…), it’s easy to picture a similar creature leaving an ancient sea and setting forth to explore the land in the distant past. Indeed, evolutionary biologists tell us that a fish very much like today’s Australian Lungfish (Neoceratodus fosteri) did pull off such a feat some 360 million years ago, thereby setting the stage for the rise of the amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.
A Fortuitous “Mistake”?
But how, specifically, did a fin “turn into” a leg? Researchers at the University of Ottawa believe they have a clue.
According to an article in a recent issue of the journal Nature, when certain genes are suppressed in Zebrafishes, fin growth is inhibited and, theoretically, limb growth might possibly begin. Conceivably, a genetic defect could have stunted fin growth in ancient fishes, rendering the fins more useful for “walking” than swimming.
Keeping Lungfishes and “Walking Fishes”
Several fishes that might be described as “walkers” are also fascinating aquarium subjects. I’m especially fond of Mudskippers, Toadfishes, Lizardfishes, Walking Catfishes and, especially, Lungfishes.
Lungfishes can become great pets, with captive longevities approaching 30 years. The species most often available in the pet trade is the West African Lungfish, (Protopterus annectans annectans). These brutes may eventually reach 3 feet in length, so plan accordingly! They are also escape artists, and are almost always intolerant of tank-mates, even similarly-sized Lungfishes of the opposite sex. I’ll cover their care in the future…until then, please write in if you decide to keep one, and I’ll send along care information.
The Australian Lungfish mentioned above is an incredible beast, but unfortunately is never available in the trade. I’ve been lucky enough to have observed them at feeding time in an aquarium in Japan – where part of their diet is plantain chunks!
Please see my article on Mudskipper Care for a look at the fish world’s most talented walker (and tree-climber!).
Video of the amazing Australian Lungfish.
Read more about the research described above here.
Please write in with your questions and comments.
Thanks, until next time,
Australian Lungfish image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Tannin
Gambian Mudskippers image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Christian Torrissen