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Jumping Fish


It’s a common argument against evolution to say that “fish can’t jump on land and grow legs.” While the growing legs part does require a bit of genetic selection via evolution, jumping on land might not be so farfetched according to a recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Zoology. Two distantly related fish seem to share a similar method of jumping across land, suggesting that they both obtained this trait from a common ancestor in the distant past. The fish tested in this experiment, the Western Mosquitofish, which can jump on land to avoid predators, and the zebrafish, which does not jump on land in its natural environment, seem to share a similar physical skill and purpose in jumping on land. Unlike truly amphibious fish like the currently living mudskippers and other lungfish or the long-extinct tetrapodomorpha like Tiktaalik and Pandericthys (often nicknamed fishapods for their similarity to both fish and amphibians), there is no skeletal basis for these jumping traits which would be preserved in the fossil record. These experiments have shown that this trait of jumping on land is present even in fishes which normally do not do it, such as Zebrafish. Many fish are not capable of doing it; a convict cichlid showed no ability to jump when placed in a similar environment. However, these findings do give evidence to a dormant jumping trait which might be preserved in many more species of fish not known to manifest this behavior in the wild. Perhaps with further experimentation, we might get a clearer picture of how this trait emerged.

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