Have you ever found yourself wondering whether there are fish with legs and what they look like? There are a surprising number of fishes that are equipped with legs, typically fins that have evolved to play the role of legs.
Here’s what you need to know about fishes that have legs in all of their various shapes and forms.
Why Don’t Fish Have Legs?
In case you might be asking yourself why fish don’t have legs, there are some pretty straightforward reasons.
When you watch most fish in the water, it should be pretty obvious that walking isn’t a priority for them. Fish can swim easily underwater without having to walk at all.
As if that’s not enough, most fish can’t survive out of aquatic environments for more than a few minutes. (*) They use gills to process oxygen out of the water and can’t breathe on land.
On the other hand, despite the reasons that most fish don’t have legs, they are a couple of weird creatures that have legs despite being fish.
Why Do Fish Have Legs?
But wait, let me tell you something. There is such a thing as fish with legs. Some fishes have adapted to the challenges of surviving in the wild in a bizarre way.
Evolution has given these creatures the ability to walk either in the water or on land. (*) Evidence points to a couple of key reasons for this unusual development:
- Collecting food. Fishes that can go out of the water in search of food or hold onto the bottom of lakes or oceans despite current may be more effective at gathering food. You see, this can make having legs beneficial.
- Escaping from predators. Animals that can move from water to land or land to water at will are more likely to get away from any creature that is trying to eat them. A fish with legs that is threatened by a shark can climb onto the shore easily. One that is threatened by a land predator can jump into the water.
- Blending in. Fish with legs can cling to items in their habitat, enabling them to effectively hide from any predators.
Top 6 Rare Fish With Legs Discovered (Image and Name)
Turns out, the axolotl is not really a fish. However, it can be easily mistaken for a fish with legs, thanks to the highly visible gills. (*)
You see, it is often referred to as the Mexican walking fish. In fact, this weird little guy is actually a neotenic salamander.
In case you might be asking yourself what that means, it is an amphibian that, through metamorphosis but never loses its gills or leaves the water.
It remains an aquatic animal like a fish throughout its life. The axolotl is very rare in the wild, but they are often kept as aquarium pets.
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Turns out, that one fish with legs that you may be fairly likely to see is the frogfish. (*) This fish is in the anglerfish family.
Simply put, these fishes have legs that are actually their pectoral fins. Their pectoral fins are evolved to be longer and more malleable than most other fish and look like legs.
You see, this fish is present throughout tropical and subtropical oceans and marine environments. Frogfish are little fishes that tend to be very stocky.
These tiny fish lie in wait for prey animals to come along. No wonder they are well-camouflaged since they are covered with bizarre appendages all over their bodies.
You see, when prey appears, this little fish with legs lures it close enough to bite or just waits for it to come within range.
In case you might be asking yourself, this fish with legs is most often on marine reefs, often near islands. As well as being in their natural ocean environment, they are often caught for the reef-keeping hobby as well.
But wait, let me tell you something. New varieties of these strange fishes are continuously being found by scientists. (*)
Most recently, a blackfish with legs in the frogfish family was caught and sent to a museum.
Here are just a few interesting species of these fishes:
- Antennarius maculatus. This species is also known as warty frogfish, this fascinating species has extremely variable coloration, and many are quite beautiful.
- Antennarius striatus. This species is most commonly called the hairy frogfish. It has extensive growths on its body that look very much like hair and assist in camouflage.
- Antennarius pictus. This species is one of the cuter types of frogfish, with a short, stocky body, little fins that look like legs, and a snub nose. It also tends to come in very bright colors.
Bat fishes are very similar to frogfishes in that they have altered pectoral fins, which act as legs. Like frogfishes, they have pectoral fins similar to legs and are in the anglerfish family group.
Their fins help them walk over the seafloor. On the other hand, bat fishes have some very distinctive differences from frogfishes as well. (*)
Turns out, there are as many as 60 species of batfish. Their body is not designed for swimming.
Rather, they move along the bottom of the seafloor using their fins. In our experience, they are one of the oddest looking fish in the world, with their flathead, slim body, and walking way of movement.
No wonder Scientists classify their pectoral fins as being limb-like. Most bat fishes are found in deep ocean habitats.
However, some species live in shallower parts of the world.
Here are a few interesting species of bat fishes:
- Ogcocephalus darwini. This species is almost cute, with its protruding eyes and very limb-like pectorals that it uses to walk and cling. It prefers to live on reefs near the Galapagos.
- Ogcocephalus corniger. This species has very distinctive fins that really look like legs, even appearing to have little feet come off of the main body of the leg.
- Ogcocephalus radiatus. This species has a very toad-like appearance and seems to be walking thanks to fins that look like strong legs coming off the side.
This species is similar to batfish and frogfish thanks to its fins which look like legs that it uses to walk on the seafloor. It is also within the anglerfish family.
No wonder this fascinating fish is called handfish. (*) These fishes have fins that actually look like little hands.
In case you might be asking yourself, they do not actually go onto land but appear to walk by propelling themselves across the seafloor.
They are poor swimmers, preferring to walk on the seafloor rather than free swim. They are most often found in Australia and Tasmania.
Scientists don’t know much about them, which makes this species shrouded in mystery.
Here are a few species of handfish:
- Brachionichthys hirsutus. Also known as the Spotted handfish, this is a beautiful fish covered with spots.
- Thymichthys politus. This species is known as the red handfish. It is extremely brightly colored.
- Thymichthys verrucosus. Very little is known about these fishes, which are also known as the warty handfish.
Simply put, perhaps the truest version of a fish with legs is the mudskipper, also known as the walking fish. This fish really does walk on land. (*)
There are over 30 different species of mudskippers, all of which depend on walking.
These fishes seem to be on the path of evolution towards either being land species or aquatic species. (*) You see, unlike almost all other fishes, they can survive and walk on land for surprisingly long periods.
And that’s just one side of the story. This walking fish can move across the land using its pectoral fins.
Its tail is also different than most fish, enabling it to move very easily across the mud.
They are almost always found in muddy land areas near the sea. Nevertheless, they are surprisingly good at walking.
In fact, the mudskipper can leap across the land with astounding speed. They can even leap into trees and low branches.
Turns out, they have been found to be able to jump as far as 2 ft over land. They can also walk long distances.
Think about it: The mudskipper is of constant interest to science, both because of its unique body and because of its interesting behavior.
They seem to vanish into the mud without a sign when on land, thanks to their extensive burrows. They are also very active when they are on land, defending their territories with their blunt head and courting other mudskippers.
Here are some interesting mudskipper species:
- Periophthalmodon schlosseri. These fishes are known as the giant mudskipper and can grow to be as much as 11 in length. They can walk long distances on land.
- Boleophthalmus boddarti. This is a beautiful little mudskipper species with a large, spotted dorsal fin that will really catch your attention if you see it walking on land.
- Boleophthalmus caeruleomaculatus. This lovely little mudskipper is known as the blue-spotted mudskipper, thanks to the bright blue spots that cover the fish. These spots are especially visible on land.
Not surprisingly, by its name, the lungfish can spend time on land because it can breathe air. (*) However, it can’t walk on land.
Evolution has provided these fascinating fishes with a unique type of gill and lung system that lets them breathe air as well as live aquatically.
And that’s just one side of the story. The body of these fishes also has special fins that enable them to seem to walk across lake floors.
In case you might be asking yourself about the history of these strange fishes, they are not a new discovery. In fact, the fossil record shows that they go back to the Triassic period.
Scientists are fascinated by the body of these fish because of their lungs, as well as how they walk on the floor of aquatic environments.
While they don’t spend time on land, they can walk across the surface of lake floors and survive in poor conditions thanks to their lungs.
Here are some interesting species of lungfish:
- Neoceratodus forsteri. This Australian lungfish is a large fish that can grow as big as 95 lb and is very striking walking across lake floors.
- Lepidosiren paradoxa. These fishes are found in swamps throughout much of South America and have an eel-like appearance, although little else is known about them. Their fin shape isn’t as useful for lake-floor walking.
- Protopterus aethiopicus. Perhaps the most beautiful species of lungfish, these fishes are also known as marble lungfish for their stunning pattern.
Fascinating fish that have legs
When most of us think about fish, the last thing on our minds is legs. However, by now, you should realize that a surprising number of fish actually do have legs. Whether they use their legs to walk on the ocean or lake floors or they actually come out of the water, these fish are endlessly fascinating.