Adaptations of amphibious fish for surviving life out of water.

Martin Sayer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

98 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

There are a small number of fish species, both marine and freshwater, that exhibit a truly amphibious habit that includes periods of aerial exposure. The duration of emersion is reflected in the level of physical and physiological adaptation to an amphibious lifestyle. Fish that are only briefly out of water retain predominantly aquatic attributes whereas there are semi-terrestrial species that are highly adapted to prolonged periods in the aerial habitat. Desiccation is the main stressor for amphibious fish and it cannot be prevented by physiological means. Instead, amphibious fish resist excessive water loss by means of cutaneous modification and behavioural response. The more terrestrially adapted fish species can tolerate considerable water loss and may employ evaporation to aid thermoregulation. The amphibious habit is limited to fish species that can respire aerially. Aerial respiration is usually achieved through modification to existing aquatic pathways. Freshwater air-breathers may respire via the skin or gills but some also have specialized branchial diverticula. Marine species utilize a range of adaptations that may include modified gills, specialized buccopharyngeal epithelia, the intestine and the skin. Areas of enhanced respiratory activity are typified by increased vascularization that permits enhanced perfusion during aerial exposure. As with other adaptations the mode of nitrogenous elimination is related to the typical durations of emersion experienced by the fish. Intertidal species exposed on a regular cycle, and which may retain some contact with water, tend to remain ammoniotelic while reducing excretion rates in order to prevent excessive water loss. Amphibious fish that inhabit environments where emersion is less predictable than the intertidal, can store nitrogen during the state of emersion with some conversion to ureotelism or have been shown to tolerate high ammonia levels in the blood. Finally, the more amphibious fish are more adapted to moving on land and seeing in air. Structural modifications to the pectoral, pelvic, dorsal and anal fins, combined with a well-developed musculature permit effective support and movement on land. For vision in air, there is a general trend for fish to possess close-set, moveable, protruberant eyes set high on the head with various physical adaptations to the structure of the eye to allow for accurate vision in both air and water.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-211
Number of pages26
JournalFish and Fisheries
Volume6
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2005

Keywords

  • TERRESTRIAL LIFE
  • AMINO-ACID CATABOLISM
  • INTERTIDAL FISHES
  • MARBLE GOBY OXYELEOTRIS
  • AIR-BREATHING FISH
  • BLENNIUS-PHOLIS L
  • Fisheries
  • ANABAS-TESTUDINEUS BLOCH
  • PERIOPHTHALMODON-SCHLOSSERI
  • AERIAL EXPOSURE
  • ACCESSORY RESPIRATORY ORGANS

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