Mudskippers live in mangrove forests along the tropical coasts of the Indian and Pacific oceans. They inhabit mudflats and tolerate a wide range of salinities. Mudskippers belong to the Goby family – a comparatively recent group of fishes, which first appeared in the fossil record some 58-37 million years ago.
Mudskippers can remain out of water for several days, breathing through specialised chambers in their mouths and gills. When the tide goes out, they skip quickly over the mudflats in search of food, using their sturdy pectoral fins as legs. They are also able to flip themselves forward with their tails, sometimes by as much as a metre. Some species climb up into the tangled roots of mangroves to hunt insects and small crustaceans.
Like many estuarine animals, mudskippers watch over their eggs until they hatch, rather than releasing them into an uncertain environment. The male mudskipper digs a nesting hole in the mud and attracts females to the nest, using a comic courtship display. When a female responds, she attaches her eggs to the wall of the burrow and the male fertilises them.