A fish headed towards Australia is primed to walk all over the continent’s ecological system — literally.
What ecologists fear is that the climbing perch, or Anabas testudineus, would be disastrous for the native wildlife including not only other fish, but turtles and birds that might try to prey on it as well. That’s because when it’s swallowed, the fish swells inside the predator’s throat causing it to choke or starve, according to the Guardian.
Oh yeah. It can walk on land.
The fish is able to live for long periods out of water because it has lungs in addition to gills, Nathan Waltham, a senior researcher in wetland ecology at James Cook University, told the Guardian.
There was evidence that the freshwater fish, which have been known to hibernate in the mud of dried-up creek beds for up to six months, could tolerate exposure to saltwater. Waltham said he observed climbing perch living in very salty waterholes, equivalent to ocean water, on a trip to the two islands in December.
Although it was unlikely the fish would be capable of swimming to the Australian mainland there was a danger it would “arrive in the bottom of a fishing boat or as discarded live-bait fish”.
The scientists have brought the fish to their laboratory to better understand how much salt the fish can tolerate, how it is doing so and test how fast it can move across different terrain.
The fish has been known to swell up when swallowed by larger predators, blocking their throats so they choke or starve. Barramundi, catfish and even some aquatic birds that died after ingesting the fish have been discovered by Waltham’s colleagues in the PNG.
This unique ability worries Australian ecologists. “When they populate an area they’re not commonly found in, they can disrupt the balance of that habitat,” Waltham said. “That’s why we’re working with Torres Strait authorities to make sure they don’t spread further south.”
As for the fish it’s not worried.
It’s a walking on sunshine trout.
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