The mummichog, Fundulus heteroclitus, is a little killifish that belongs to the genus Fundulus. It is also known as a gudgeon, mummy, mud minnow, and Atlantic killifish. 'Mummichog' is an Indian word meaning 'going in crowds', referring to the fish living in schools (shoals). On the other hand, the fish is known as mud minnow due to its behavior of burrowing itself in mud during the winters, and gudgeon is used for the bottom-dwelling fish. It is found in the salt marshes and coastal range along the Atlantic coast of North America to northeast Florida in the south of the continent including Newark Bay, Port au Port Bay, and the Chesapeake Bay. Primarily, it inhabits coastal and brackish water bodies, including tidal creeks.
The shoals of mummichogs range up to hundreds of individual species. The adaptive behavior makes mummichogs live in a variety of environmental conditions. The population of mummichog can survive in a temperature range up to 95 F (35 C) and is tolerant to alternations in salinity.
The mummichogs are quite similar to the banded killifish and are also documented to interbreed with one another. Furthermore, the mummichogs are used as bait. Interestingly, they were the first fish sent to space!
The mummichog, Fundulus heteroclitus, is a small fish, being omnivorous in nature. It has two subspecies: Fundulus heteroclitus heteroclitus and Fundulus heteroclitus macrolepidotus. While Fundulus heteroclitus heteroclitus is found in the south, Fundulus heteroclitus macrolepidotus is found in the north of North America.
The Fundulus heteroclitus belongs to the genus Fundulus, highlighting its nature of living in shoals, being a gregarious species of fish. Mummichogs belong to the order Cypinodontiformes with several scientific names considered as synonyms that range from Fundulus nigrofasciatus, Fundulus fasciatus to Cobitis heteroclita, and Fundulus pisculentus.
While the mummichog, Fundulus heteroclitus, is listed as Least Concern under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, it is a quite common fish, considering its adaptive behavior. The population range of the fish is at no risk except it being a bait.
Mummichogs are found along the Atlantic coast of North America. The populations of species of mummichog range from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the Gulf Coast of Texas including Newark Bay, Port au Port Bay, and the Chesapeake Bay. Quite recently, the species of these bait fish have been introduced in Hawaii and the Philippines, which were initially established in the coastal waters of Portugal and Spain.
Mummichog habitat choices range from bay waters to tidal creeks. The species of mummichog is pretty common in saltwater marshes, mud creeks, shorelines, and grass beds. The mummichogs bury themselves in muddy bottoms during the winters when the temperature dropdowns below 59 F (15 C). As bait fish, the species are found in the freshwaters. The search highlights that mummichogs are highly adaptive towards various environmental alterations that range from high-low temperatures to changes in the salinity of the water.
The mummichogs are gregarious in nature, often found in shoals or schools. The search documented the size of the group to range from 5-15 fish.
The mummichog is reported to live up to four years. While the eggs hatch in 8-18 days, the males and females are reported to attain maturity at two years. Furthermore, according to the search, a bigmouth buffalo fish is the longest living fish which lived up to 112 years.
The spawning season varies from late spring to early fall. The spawning is recorded to take place with the onset of the highest tides – either on a new moon day or full moon day. Females lay up to 460 eggs at a time during the spawning season in their native habitat. The eggs laid are sticky and found in empty mollusk shells or mussel shells. Eggs do not hatch until they are covered with water during the highest tide that occurs in the succeeding month. The eggs hatch into larvae in 8-18 days. The larvae move around when they attain a length up to 0.7 in (2 cm) and swim with adult males and females in schools.
The mummichog is categorized as one of the Least Concern species under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The species reportedly is at no risk. Although it is used as live bait, the population is recorded to be stable.
Mummichogs are dimorphic meaning males and females have distinct physical characteristics. While males are dark olive green colored, females are yellow with a silverish tint with a faded dorsal side. The males have either blue or green markings during the breeding season, while females lack the same. The species have a soft dorsal fin with their pelvic fins attached near the rear fin.
With flattened heads, mummichogs are quite attractive. They have an elongated body with a shiny tint that can catch your attention.
While the communication mechanism of the mummichogs remains poorly studied, it is speculated that the fish communicates using various gestures and motions.
While the swimming speed of mummichog is not yet computed, a black marlin is recorded to be the fastest fish with a speed up to 80 mph (129 kph).
The weight of the mummichog is unknown.
While there are no sex-specific names assigned to the species of the mummichog, it is also known by the name of Atlantic killifish, mummy, mud minnow, and gudgeon.
A baby mummichog does not have a specific name. Also, a juvenile that is capable enough to feed itself is called a fry.
The mummichogs feed on the surface of the water during the daytime. Being opportunistic feeders, the populations of mummichog prey upon a large variety of marine creatures. Their diet comprises mollusks, phytoplankton, worms, crustaceans, eggs of its own genus, and insect larvae, and also vegetation such as eelgrass. They also prey upon smaller fishes
Males are very aggressive during courtship, while there are no documentations of females portraying aggressive behavior. However, the mummichog is known for its social and friendly temperament.
A mummichog is a humble fish and is reported to make a good pet. It is highly adaptive against various environmental conditions ranging from varying temperatures to fluctuating salinity levels.
Kidadl Advisory: All pets should only be bought from a reputable source. It is recommended that as a potential pet owner you carry out your own research prior to deciding on your pet of choice. Being a pet owner is very rewarding but it also involves commitment, time and money. Ensure that your pet choice complies with the legislation in your state and/or country. You must never take animals from the wild or disturb their habitat. Please check that the pet you are considering buying is not an endangered species, or listed on the CITES list, and has not been taken from the wild for the pet trade.
The fish is stationary on warmer days, while buries itself in the mud bottoms in winters or temperatures below 59 C (15 C). It is known for its hardy and adaptive nature.
The fish attains maturity in up to two years.
It was first documented in the ponds of New Hampshire.
It has two subspecies; Fundulus heteroclitus heteroclitus is found in the south and Fundulus heteroclitus macrolepidotus is found in the north of North America.
It is considered very similar to a banded killifish (Fundulus diaphanus), the habitats of the fish overlap each other, too. While a banded has thin dark bars on the light side, a mummichog has light bars on its dark side. They are also speculated to interbreed with one another.
The shoal of the fish is recorded to have more than several hundred fish.
It is also a host to the parasite fluke (Homalometron pallidum). Other parasitic hosts include 10 protozoans, one nematode, and eight trematodes.
It was the first fish to be sent to space. Also, it is a common bait fish.
It inhabits the bay waters including Newark Bay, Port au Port Bay, and the Chesapeake Bay.
A killifish is a Cyprinodontiform fish including families of Aplocheilidae, Cyprinodontidae, Valenciidae, Profundulidae, and Fundulidae. Mummichog and pupfish are some of the common fish from the genus. They inhabit the fresh or salt waters of America, extending as far to Europe, Asia, and Africa. They are speculated to have a short lifespan and are also known as annual fish as they do not live more than a season. Some of the killifish are golden wonder (Apolcheilus lineatus), Daisy's blue rice (Oryzias woworae), Gardneri panchax (Fundulopanchax gardneri), Magnificus (Simpsonichthys magnificus), Guentheri (Nothobranchius guentheri), and Rachovi (Nothobranchius rachovii). They are often referred to as 'living jewels'.
Mummichogs are a prominent source of food for larger fishes, wading birds, and seabirds. On the other hand, they are recorded to consume more than 2000 mosquito larvae in a day and thus are known as biocontrol agents of mosquitoes.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish from our catfish facts and spiny dogfish facts for kids.
You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable mummichog coloring pages.