Wild Fact #63 – Fish Out Of Water – African Lungfish

African Lungfish


Cool Facts About The African Lungfish

  • The African Lungfish is an unique fish with an eel-like body and thread-like pectoral and pelvic fins
  • Because of their shape, this fish can either swim like an eel or shuffle along the bottom using their adapted pectoral and pelvic fins – the best of both worlds.
  • Unlike most fish species, the African Lungfish is capable of storing oxygen in an out-pocket of their gut, which is related to the swim bladder. Who knew that fish had pockets?

Able to Breathe for an Extra Lung Time (see what I did there?)

As mentioned above, the African Lungfish possess an out-pocket of their gut, which serves as their lung.   This lung has many blood vessels to enable the transport of oxygen through the blood stream.   Not to mention, the heart of the Lungfish is also different than most fish species because it is divided into two chambers.   One side receives de-oxygenated blood while the other side that receives oxygenated blood.   The oxygenated and deoxygenated blood are kept separate and delivered to their appropriate gill arches. As a result of this lung, it is believed that the Lungfish can live out of water for months at a time. African Lungfish

Learning How to Breathe

When they are not hanging out on land they are doing things like normal fish such as eating and reproducing.  The female Lungfish creates a burrow amongst the aquatic vegetation that is roughly 60 cm deep where she can deposit her eggs.  Spending time amongst several females, the male Lungfish often helps aerate the eggs using body and fin movements.   Moreover, males tend to watch nearby after incubation to offer some protection for his air-breathing, fish spawn.   When the young hatch, they resemble tadpoles with external gills.   Only as they become older will they develop their lung and learn how to breathe air.

Dinner and a Nap – The Perfect Life

I guess we should discuss their other major hobby, eating. When water levels are higher, the Lungfish, a carnivore, feeds on crustaceans, insect larvae, molluscs, and occasionally a fish or frog.  One the water retreats, the Lungfish will not feed because they retreat to their burrows and enter a state of hibernation called aestivation. I am willing to bet that the crustaceans and insect larvae love it when the water retreats s little. Gives them one less predator to worry about.

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