Vol 2 No 2
at Sungei Buloh
The Mangrove Boardwalk
at Sungei Buloh
Strange Creatures of the Swamp
Mudskippers are usually
found in mangrove swamps at the estuaries of rivers. The mud deposited by the
rivers here is a suitable place for mudskippers to build their burrows. There
is no shortage of food, as algae and small animals like worms, crabs and snails
on which they feed are found in abundance in the waters and mudflats.
These strange creatures of the swamp are fish that do not behave like fish:
they hop out of the water, "walk" across the mud and even climb
trees. They are equally at home on land and in water. Come to Sungei Buloh Nature Park, and
don't forget to bring your binoculars. The best places in the Park to observe
mudskippers are the Mangrove Boardwalk at the Visitor Centre and the Mangrove
Arboretum. You'll be fascinated when you spot mudskippersósome veritable
giants among themólazing in their private mud pools at low tide.
The Park is home to at
least five species of mudskippers: the Giant, Dark-gilled, Gold-spotted,
Blue-spotted and Lanceolate Mudskippers. At high
tide, these fish clamber up the stilt roots of mangrove plants to rest. Their
weird bulging eyes lie close together on the top of their heads and are
equipped with lower eyelids... so don't be surprised if you catch a
mudskipper blinking at you!!
Swim, hop and crawl: this fish does them all
Using its powerful pectoral fins as legs, the mudskipper crawls around in the
mud. When disturbed, it seeks the safety of water by using its tail to hop
across the mud. Back in the water, it swims around like other fishes do, but
keeps its head above water.
Sometimes, the fish
"treads water" by flexing its tail slowly from side to side. When
provoked, it flips its tail vigorously from side to side, and leaps across
the water before settling back for a swim.
Can you breathe through your skin? The mudskipper can!! In water, the
mudskipper breathes through gills like other fishes do. However, when on
land, it carries around its own "air tanks"; a mixture of air and
water in its gill chambers. The blood vessels in the gills absorb the oxygen
as the water passes through the gills. When the oxygen is used up, a fresh
mouthful of water is gulped in.
For added security, it has moist skin under which
there is a rich supply of blood vessels. This enables the fish to breathe
through its skin as well.
Finding a mate in the mud
The mudskipper goes to great lengths to attract a mate. Each species of
mudskipper has its own courtship style. The amorous Gold-spotted Mudskipper
starts off by selecting a site on the mudflat not too near the other burrows,
for he treasures his privacy. Then he builds a burrow by scooping out
mouthfuls of mud and dumping the mud around the burrow entrance. His house
completed, the mudskipper casts his roving eyes around, and when he spots an
attractive female, wags his tail and jumps around with his dorsal fins erect.
The curious female edges closer for a better view,
and this makes him show off even more. With his head held high, he puffs up
his orange throat for her to see, then disappears head first into the burrow.
The female lingers coyly outside the burrow until he reappears and starts
blowing bubbles her way. Falling for his bubbles, she follows him into the
tunnel of love.
After mating, the pair emerge from the burrow. There
she sits smugly at the edge of the burrow, while her mate scampers about
defending the territory. He is kept busy chasing away rival males trying to
grab his mate, as well as mangrove crabs out to usurp him from his home. So
there you have it: the intimate secrets of this most unusual creature.
Come see this versatile fish in action at Sungei Buloh now.