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This Invasive Fish Can Live Out of Water and Walk on Land — And Experts are Concerned

posted: 06/03/15
by: Danny Clemens
Climbing perch
Nathan Waltham/James Cook University

It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie, but it's 100% true: Australian officials are closely monitoring the climbing perch (Anabas testudineus), a frighteningly resilient and aggressively invasive fish that can live out of water for six days as it crawls across dry land.

According to Dr. Nathan Waltham, a James Cook University scientist currently tracking the perch's movement, the fish can also survive in the mud of a dried-up creek bed for half a year. Originally believed to be a freshwater fish, the perch is thought to be able to tolerate limited amounts of saltwater.

Anabas testudineus in tank
Nathan Waltham/James Cook University

The highly invasive fish has a will of steel, and is said to outcompete native species with relative ease. When swallowed by a predator, it won't go down without a fight: the tiny menace will swell up exponentially, choking out its captor.

Native to Asia, the climbing perch has already established itself as far south as Papua New Guinea. Experts are concerned that it could be inching its way toward mainland Australia by way of the Torres Strait -- it has already been sighted on Boigu and Saibai, two islands between Papua New Guinea and Australia, and would be "difficult" to eradicate.

Waltham's program TopWATER aims to educate the public about the threat posed by such highly invasive species:

"It's only through active education and monitoring, in partnership with relevant authorities and local communities, that we can keep it under control. If we do it early enough," remarked Waltham.

In certain parts of Asia, the climbing perch is an important protein source. The same resilience that keeps it alive out of water is also its downfall -- the fish stays fresh for longer after its death.

Click here to learn more about the climbing perch

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