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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2023



Dusky-gilled Mudskipper

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4

Order : Perciformes
Species : Periophthalmus variabilis
Maximum Length : 6.5 cm

The Dusky-gilled Mudskipper is a small species which inhabits various micro-habitats within mangrove ecosystems, however it seems to be generally more common in landward mangrove near the high water mark.  

As its scientific name, Periophthalmus variabilis,
indicates, this species is quite variable in character. Generally its dorsal surface is mottled light and dark brown, with vague dark brown saddles. Its flanks and ventral surface are pale. Under strong, reflected light small, pale blue speckles might be visible, particularly on the flanks (see image at left).

The front dorsal fin is striped: the margin is pale to clear, the middle part is dark, and the lower part is orange-brown. The tail fin is mottled brown, and reddish-orange at the margin.

There appears some confusion in the literature as to the correct scientific name for this species in Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore. On his website, The, Gianluca Polgar states that Periophthalmus novemradiatus is a misapplied name.  (P. novemradiatus is a separate species that occurs in the Gulf of Bengal, from eastern India to southern Thailand).

P. variabilis is known to occur in Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam and parts of Indonesia.

Fig 1 : Pair of Dusky-gilled Mudskippers in a brief embrace at Sungei Pandan, Singapore.  This unusual behaviour did not appear to be aggressive, nor part of courtship behaviour. 

Fig 2 : Back-mangrove habitat of the Dusky-gilled Mudskipper at Pulau Kukup, Johor, Peninsular Malaysia.

Fig 3 : Specimen from Pulau Kukup mangrove, Johor,  Peninsular Malaysia.

Fig 4 : Specimen from Pasir Ris mangrove, Singapore.

Fig 5 : Male and female pair from Pulau Ubin, Singapore. The female is at the front: it is slightly larger and lacks the dark band on the front dorsal fin.  Photo thanks to Noel Thomas.

Thanks to Gianluca Polgar for assistance in identification.

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Fig 5

ゥ  Noel Thomas