This Creepy Fish Can Crawl on Land, Live for Days Without Water

James Cook University
James Cook University / James Cook University

The climbing perch is one intimidating fish. Anabas testudineus, native to southeast Asia, can crawl on dry land by dragging itself by the gills—and it can survive there for almost a week. Oh, and despite being a freshwater fish, it’s somehow made its way from Asia all the way to islands just north of Australia. 

The climbing perch is an aggressive invasive species that seems to be able to survive just about anything, and scientists at James Cook University in Australia worry that it’s coming for the continent next. It probably wouldn’t be able to swim from its current outposts near Papua New Guinea all the way to mainland Australia, but it could hitch a ride on the bottom of a boat. According to JCU’s Nathan Waltham, an ecologist, the fish seems to be salt-water resistant.  

Once established in a new territory, the crawling fish are hard to get rid of. They out-compete native species and manage to starve or suffocate whatever poor soul tries to eat them. They swell up in the throats of predators, blocking the larger creature from eating or breathing. When not dragging themselves on spiky gills across land from waterhole to waterhole, they can hibernate in dry creek beds for months. While their flop-and-drag crawling routine (shown in the video above) may not be the most efficient of power-walks, the fish can still survive for up to six days on land.

A crawling fish! On land! Doesn't need water! Chokes its foes! Don’t mind me, I’m just having nightmares about being strangled by a flopping terrestrial fish.

[h/t: Washington Post]