A Moment of Science

Fish Out Of Water

The story of evolution is replete with twists and turns. The land-bound blenny fish is a prime example.

Two colorful gobies side-by-side

Photo: Klaus Stiefel (flickr)

The blenny fish is a type of goby, a genus consisting of thousands of species.

An extremely concise story of evolution might go something like this: Life began in the ocean, then at some point ocean creatures made it onto land and adapted.

Much More Complicated

Of course, the story is much more complicated. Take, for example, the Pacific leaping blenny — a fish that spends its life not in the ocean, but rather on rocks at the ocean’s edge.

What’s really cool about the Pacific leaping blenny is that it’s a true fish, with fins and everything. But as the name suggests, leaping blennies get around by leaping with a twist of their tails.

Now, you may be wondering: Wouldn’t a fish flopping and leaping around on a bunch of rocks by easy prey for predators? Of course the answer is yes, unless the fish are well camouflaged, as are leaping blennies.

Primed From The Get Go

In fact, they tend to blend in perfectly with their rocky homes, making it more difficult for predators mainly birds to spot and grab them. As for how and why leaping blennies moved from the ocean to ocean rocks in the first place, that remains a mystery.

But there’s evidence that the species was primed to make the leap from the get go. Instead of gradually adapting their body color to match the rocks after transitioning from sea to land, it seems that Pacific leaping blennies already happened to have coloring that closely matched rocks along the shoreline.

When the fish made the transition, they were well outfitted to survive.

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