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Integr Comp Biol. 2012 Dec;52(6):724-36. doi: 10.1093/icb/ics062. Epub 2012 May 10.

Twenty-four years in the mud: what have we learned about the natural history and ecology of the mangrove rivulus, Kryptolebias marmoratus?

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Brevard County Environmentally Endangered Lands Program, Melbourne, FL 32904, USA.


Although first described in 1880, Kryptolebias marmoratus avoided scientific scrutiny until 1961, when it was identified as the only known selfing hermaphroditic vertebrate. The subsequent intense interest in this fish as a laboratory animal, continuing to this day, might explain the paucity of wild collections, but our collective knowledge now suggests that the inherent difficulty of wild collection is more a matter of "looking in all the wrong places." Long thought to be rare in the mangroves, and it is rare in certain human-impacted habitats, K. marmoratus can be quite abundant, but in microhabitats not typically targeted by ichthyologists: ephemeral pools at higher elevations in the swamp, crab burrows, and other fossorial or even terrestrial haunts. Field studies of this enigmatic fish have revealed almost amphibious behaviors. During emersion these fish tolerate extended dry periods. In water, they are exposed to temperature extremes, high levels of hydrogen sulfide, and depleted dissolved oxygen. Finally, their catholic diet and a geographically variable sex life completes a portrait of an unusual animal. A clearer picture is emerging of adult life, with initial population density estimates now known and some indication of high population turnover in burrows, but juvenile habitat and adult oviposition sites remain unknown.

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