Amphibious fish jump better on land after acclimation to a terrestrial environment
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Air and water differ dramatically in density and viscosity, posing different biomechanical challenges for animal locomotion. We asked how terrestrial acclimation influences locomotion in amphibious fish, specifically testing the hypothesis that terrestrial tail flip performance is improved by plastic changes in the skeletal muscle. Mangrove rivulus Kryptolebias marmoratus, which remain largely inactive out of water, were exposed to water or air for 14 days and a subgroup of air-exposed fish was also recovered in water. Tail flip jumping performance on land improved dramatically in air-acclimated fish, they had lower lactate levels compared with control fish, and these effects were mostly reversible. Muscle plasticity significantly increased oxidative muscle cross-sectional area and fibre size, as well as the number of capillaries per fibre. Our results show that reversible changes to the oxidative skeletal muscle of K. marmoratus out of water enhance terrestrial locomotory performance, even in the absence of exercise training.
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