Author(s): J Davenport, AKM Abdul Matin
Climbing perches use the tail for forward propulsion when on land. The spiny gill covers are used to obtain purchase on the substratum. Unusually amongst teleosts, the opercular and subopercular bone are not bound strongly together into a single operculum. Instead they are joined only by a thin, flexible membrane, so that the fish has two sections of the gill cover hinged separately; the opercular on the suspensorium and the subopercular on the rearmost part of the lower jaw. The gill covers open very widely and the subopercular rotates ventrally as well as laterally. Two modes of locomotion are employed. Usually Anabus adopts a near-upright posture and alternately drives the left and right spiny suboperculars into the substratum, using the tail to vault over the subopercular (which acts in the manner of a short vaulting pole). During vigorous movement the fish may leave the substratum altogether during the vault. Fatigued fish, or fish which have fallen during climbing, move on their sides, using the tail for propulsion and a single spiny opercular which is repeatedly driven into the substratum. Maximum speeds observed on land corresponded to 1.8 body lengths S−1. No evidence of involvement of the pelvic fins in locomotion was obtained; the pectorals seemed only to help in tilting the head from side to side and did not contribute significantly to forward propulsion. On mud and tree bark the fish were laterally unstable, often resting on their sides. Grassy substrata provided support and permitted a more upright posture. Slope climbing ability was restricted to 25° when climbing tree bark and 30° when climbing grass. Coupled with lateral instability these observations disqualify the species from any tree-climbing capacity. Anabas can climb vertical obstacles of at least half body length in height by pushing the head against the obstacle, using the spiny gill covers for purchase until one or other subopercular hooks over the top of the barrier. The subopercular is then used as a fulcrum for an upwards vault to clear the obstacle.