March 16 (UPI) -- The mangrove rivulus, which is known as the tiny jumping fish, can leap farther as it gets older, new research shows.
These fish, which can be found in the United States, are capable of "tail-flip jumping" many times their body length when out of water, allowing them find better find better habitats by escaping predators. Researchers from the universities of Exeter in Britain and Alabama published their findings Thursday in the Journal of Experimental Zoology.
"Few studies have examined how the relationship between form and function changes across lifespan, and we were intrigued to find experience trumps all -- at least if you're a mangrove rivulus," Dr. Tom Houslay, of the Center for Ecology and Conservation at University of Exeter in Cornwall, said in a press release.
In studying 237 fish, they found that the older fish typically jump about half a body length farther than younger ones. The oldest, which was 4 years old, jumped more than 12 times its body length.
"We found that the length and position of certain bones seem to help younger fish jump further," Houslay said. "However, these links disappear as they age, and older fish are better at jumping regardless of these physical characteristics. Adults probably rely less on bones because they have the musculature and neural systems to coordinate jumping, something that isn't highly developed in the young fish."
Mangrove rivulus, which live in noxious crab burrow habitats, are around one inch as adults.
And if they find themselves with no mate, they can reproduce alone. Because of this, scientists like studying the fish .
"The next step in this line of research is to figure out whether genetic variation underlies differences in body structure associated with jumping performance in young fish," said lead author Joe Styga, a doctoral candidate at the University of Alabama. "This information may help us to determine to what extent jumping performance may evolve in the face of environmental change."