Did you know that fish can walk and fly? How else could you explain that there’s a lone fish in the Peace Garden pond? I am the only one to have seen it, everyone thinks I am mistaken or must be joking. ‘It might be a newt,’ they say.
Ken Livingstone would be very keen; he’s been interested in newts since 1958. He’s often called the ‘Newt King’ and I have met him but didn’t have the chance to ask about his garden pond where huge numbers come to breed each year.
There are three species of newt in Britain, the smooth or common newt, which only grows to be about three inches long, just like its close relative the palmate newt. The grandest of our newts is the great crested. The amphibian I saw didn’t have legs, was bigger than three inches long and didn’t have a crest, so I think it’s a fish!
But how could a fish get into an isolated pond without it being stocked? If there was a linking water it would be understandable as fish can migrate in on existing waterway, but the pond is separate, hand-dug and is not in an area that floods.
I do remember hearing about fish that can crawl, there’s the strange fish, spotted off Ambon in Indonesia which is thought to be unique because of its flat face and forward-looking eyes. It uses leg-like pectoral fins to burrow into crevices.
Then there is the little African Polypterus fish which isn’t pretty, but does have a special skill. It is equipped with both gills and lungs, it can live on land for a long time, up to two years apparently. Also in Africa, the lung fish can live in a dry water bed for four years.
The climbing perch has an accessory air-breathing organ that lets it breathe on dry land for up to six days. This fish can also crawl across land and hide in river beds. Australian scientists have found it can tolerate both freshwater and saltwater and can breathe on land, and walk across land with their gills.
So maybe our fish can breathe air and crawled overland from Minsteracres lake to the Peace Garden pond?
On the other hand perhaps our little fellow flew in from Barbados, ‘the land of the flying fish’. Flying fish can make powerful, self-propelled leaps out of water into air, where their long, wing-like fins enable gliding flight for considerable distances above the water’s surface.
There are several types of flying fish which evade their predators by taking to the air; the longest recorded flight appears to be 50 meters and 45 seconds long.
This flight of fancy doesn’t extend to fish from Barbados, so the most likely answer to our conundrum is…. the fish thumbed a lift.
There is always a chance that the fish was transported in from another source. A pond that is formed near other water may receive new fish from passing birds of prey dropping their catch.
Similarly, fish roe that remains damp enough during a trip between ponds may wash off the fur and feet of local animals as they move from pond to pond.
The most common species to give fish a lift to new site, including new ponds is humankind. We can accidentally release fish roe into new water by carrying them in on the mucky bottoms of our boots and other water gear. Humankind is a major facilitator of hitchhiking fish.
Well, however the fish got there, he is alone, as this little poem will tell.
I swim in circles
And float about a bit
I eat the bugs
They make me burp
Only newts for company
I got a lift here
The lake was more fun
I wish I could fly back.
I would crawl
If only I had legs
The dog swims here
He drinks the water
I have pooped in
Make him sneeze
Not so Boring!