Land of Opposites

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The mangrove is a land of opposites. The grey area between land and sea, it represents a transitional zone that’s neither here nor there and thus is all the more precious; Singapore’s mangroves have decreased a dramatic 97% due to land reclamation. Perhaps no creature represents this conflict better than the giant mudskipper (Periophthalmodon schlosseri), a familiar denizen of the mangroves and (arguably) the weirdest of them all. It is, quite literally, a fish that walks. Adapted to survive in the sometimes-mud sometimes-water habitat that is Singapore’s coastal ecosystem, they have evolved some really weird leg-like appendages for – you guessed it – skipping about on the mud, hopping out of water, and even climbing trees. At low tide, they relax in their own private mud pools; food is in abundance for them in the form of algae, small worms, crabs, and snails, as they have little to no competition – no other creature wanted to take the million-year-long long route to evolving to fit this particular ecological niche. Its bulbous eyes are positioned on the top of its head and are kept above water at all times. It can breathe through its skin. And they’re a type of tropical goby. Mudskippers, I tell you. Opposites indeed.

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