Have you ever seen a fish that could walk on land? There are actually types of fish that can move around on land using leg-like fins. In this post, we’ll look at 10 fantastic fish with legs.
The frogfish is a small marine fish that lives in tropical oceans worldwide. They get their name from their leg-like pectoral fins that allow them to “walk” along the seafloor. Frogfish don’t have legs, but they use their fins in a stepping motion to move. This helps them stay camouflaged and stalk prey.
Frogfish have stocky bodies covered in bumpy skin and webbed appendages on their fins that help them blend into their surroundings. They come in colours like red, yellow, grey, and even black. While waiting to ambush prey, frogfish look like a lump of coral or a rock covered in algae. Pretty cool camouflage!
Found in the warm waters of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, batfish look like they could fly away at any moment! They use their greatly elongated pectoral and pelvic fins to propel themselves across the ocean bottom like a bat fluttering through the night sky. The fins can even work independently to help them manoeuvre in any direction.
Batfish get their name from their fins that resemble a bat’s wings. They can be yellow, brown, or reddish, and some species have cool patterns on their fins. While swimming, batfish keep their wing-like fins stretched out like a bat gliding through the air. How awesome is that?
Found in coastal waters off Australia and Tasmania, handfish are named for their hand-like pectoral fins. These fish use their fins to “walk” along the seafloor instead of swimming. There are around 14 species of handfish, and some are endangered due to threats like pollution and habitat loss.
Handfish have stout bodies covered in warty skin and modified fins that look like hands. They wiggle their finger-like fins to walk across the seafloor, searching for food like shrimp and small crabs. Some can even do a handstand! Handfish usually live in areas with rocky reefs or seaweed forests that give them places to hide and feed.
If you’ve ever been to a swamp or mangrove area, you may have seen some strange fish flipping and flopping around in the mud. These amphibious fish are known as mudskippers! They use their pectoral fins to move around on land like salamanders and survive for days out of water.
Mudskippers have elongated bodies and eyes on top of their heads so they can see above the water while partially submerged. On land, they pull themselves up with their strong front fins and hold their tails straight up. Some mudskippers even climb trees using their fins and tails! Though they breathe through gills, mudskippers can also absorb oxygen through their skin when on land. Neat trick!
Lungfish are freshwater fish found in Africa, South America, and Australia. They are unique because, in addition to gills, they have a primitive lung that allows them to breathe air. When water levels drop, or their habitat dries up, lungfish can burrow into the mud and go into a state of estivation where their metabolism slows down. They can survive like this for years until water returns!
Lungfish have elongated, eel-like bodies with small, weak fins. They use their stout front fins to pull themselves forward like a salamander on land. Some limb-like fins even have joints that let them move on land better. While their lungs allow them to survive out of water, lungfish still absorb oxygen through their gills and skin when in water.
The red gurnard is a funky-looking fish found in the waters around Europe. It gets its name from its reddish-orange body colour and its gurning (grimacing) expression. But the weirdest thing about this fish is its leg-like pectoral fins.
Red gurnards use their large fan-shaped pectoral fins to walk along the seafloor. Each fin has articulated finger-like rays that allow traction and movement. The fins can even work independently, propelling the fish forward and helping it manoeuvre around obstacles. How cool is that? This ocean crawler can move pretty fast, thanks to its bizarre fins.
Sharks aren’t supposed to walk, but the epaulette shark manages to do it anyway! It uses its powerful front fins to “walk” along shallow reef flats when the tide goes out. The epaulette shark can survive up to 4 hours out of water by breathing air.
Named for the large spots above its pectoral fins that look like military epaulettes, this small shark has muscular front fins and a sturdy body. When the water recedes, it starts moving by alternately planting its fins and pushing forward. They can even wiggle their fins to move over land! Who knew sharks could walk like that?
With an eel-like body and sinister appearance, the snakehead fish can breathe air and survive for up to 4 days out of water. It uses its muscular body and front fins to wriggle and pull itself forward across land like a snake. Some species of snakehead are highly invasive and can migrate short distances between bodies of water.
Snakeheads have cylindrical bodies, long dorsal fins, and sharp teeth protruding from their lower jaws. They can breathe air thanks to a primitive labyrinth organ that acts like a lung. While they prefer to stay underwater, snakeheads can migrate short distances over land to colonize new areas, which contributes to their invasive success. Keep an eye out for these creepy crawling fish!
Like something from prehistoric times, the Polypterus bichir is a ray-finned fish with lobe-shaped fins and can walk on land! It uses its arm-like pectoral fins to lift its head and pull forward. Bichirs can survive for extended periods out of water as long as their skin stays moist.
These odd fish have elongated bodies with a continuous dorsal fin that runs most of the length of their back. Their pectoral fins sit very low on the body, giving them an arm-like appearance. Bichirs use these fins to lift and pivot their body while walking on land. They breathe air through a modified swim bladder to survive out of water. Strange looking and strangely adaptive!
Last but not least, we have the aptly named walking catfish. Able to breathe air and survive up to 6 days on land, these invasive fish use their pectoral fins to walk and wiggle their way to new waters. They’ve been introduced in places like Florida, where they can migrate short distances over land.
Walking catfish have a brownish-grey colour and eel-like appearance without scales. They have bony plates on their head that they can flex to lift their head and shift their weight forward. These hardy fish can spawn up to 4 times a year, and females carry the fertilized eggs in their mouths! Watch your step if you’re near waters where walking catfish are found!