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Florida Guide > Other Florida

The Amazing Killfish!

If you saw a fish in a tree, what would be your reaction? Would you think you were going mad? or that you had one too many last night?

Well, if you are in Florida, then show no surprise at all since The mangrove killifish (rivulus marmoratus poey) lives for several months of the year in the rotting trunks and branches of native trees. They have somehow managed to alter their biological make up so they can survive for months and months out of water.

They are only a tiny 2 inches long and live naturally in mangrove swamps. As well as being native to Florida, they can also be found in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The habits of these amazing little fish were discovered when bioligists were wading through the swamps in Florida. It is thought that when the pools of water round the mangroves dry up they just flounder their way into the trees.

Outside of the water, their conditions are somewhat cramped; one scientist described them as being lined up inside the crack of a log. The crack would have been made by insects.

Since they are known to have rather aggresive habits, it is a mystery as to how they can endure these close conditions for so long. Somehow their gills retain water and nutrients while they excrete waste through their skin. As soon as they re enter the water, these bodily functions are immediately reversed One interesting fact is that if you wrapped a killifish in wet leaves, it would be able to survive for several months.

There are two other breeds of fish that breathe in air; the walking catfish has gills that allow it to breathe and the climbing perch has a similar ability. However, no other fish is able to stay out of water for more than a short time; so the Mangrove Killifish is truly unique.

I have been holding back another truly amazing fact about these strange little fish and that is that they reproduce without a mate. Mangrove Killifish can develop both male and female sex organs and inseminate themselves. They then lay live emryos straight into the water. They are the only vertebrate in the world that are able to do this. So they have another claim to fame.

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Page added on: 5 February 2008
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