Mudskipper pectoral fin kinematics in aquatic and terrestrial environments

C. M. Pace, A. C. Gibb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Mudskippers use pectoral fins for their primary mode of locomotion on land and pectoral fins in conjunction with the axial musculature and caudal fin to move in water. We hypothesized that distinct pectoral fin movements enable effective locomotion in each environment. Additionally, we made three functional predictions about fin movements during locomotion on land versus water: the pectoral fin is depressed more on land than in water; the pectoral fin will have greater changes in fin area between propulsive and recovery phases in water versus land; anterior and posterior excursions will be greater on land than in water. Locomotion was recorded in each environment using a high-speed digital-imaging system and kinematic variables were calculated from digitized landmark points. Variables were analyzed using principal components analysis and matched pairs t-tests. Mudskippers produce distinct kinematic patterns across environments (P<0.003), although only some of our predictions were supported. The magnitude of fin depression is the same across habitats. However, depression occurs during the propulsive phase on land (by -0.60cm), whereas during the propulsive phase in water the fin is elevated (by +0.13cm). We were unable to support the hypothesis that fin orientation differs between environments. Lastly, anterior extension of the fin is greater on land (1.8cm, versus 1.3cm in water), creating a larger stride length in this environment. We posit that the mudskipper pectoral fin may facilitate stability in water and thrust production on land, and suggest that the robust fin morphology of the goby lineage may predispose species within this group to terrestrial locomotion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2279-2286
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Biology
Issue number14
StatePublished - Jul 15 2009


  • Amphibious fishes
  • Crutching
  • Locomotion
  • Mudskipper
  • Periophthalmus
  • Swimming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Physiology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Insect Science


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