African Lungfishes

Introduction: The African lungfishes are eel or salamander-like freshwater fishes belonging to the genus Protopterus that constitutes of four species that are all found in Africa. The genus Protopterus is the only genus affiliated to the family Protopteridae. The lifespan of lungfishes is about 20 years and more especially under favorable conditions.
African lungfish are characterized by their outstanding adaptations that enabled them estivate during dry season. The species is also known by their aggressiveness as they can bite when agitated and hence it is advised to club the fish once caught whether to quieten them or bring them to death. In that regard, while fishery people believe that fish clubbing is humane causing less suffering, the
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The fish has paired filamentous pectoral and pelvic fins with the pectoral longer than the pelvic ones. Their soft cycloid scales are embedded in the skin. African lungfishes are characterized by their prominent snouts and small eyes. African lungfish use their small gills that are retained in two anterior gill arches for respiration. They reach a length of about 1 m in the wild with the largest recorded specimen of 2-m long. The shape of their bodies allows them to swim like eels, while the shape of their fins (pectoral and pelvic) enables the fish to crawl along the bottom.
Feeding habits: In nature, lungfishes are voracious feeders. They are highly aggressive carnivores and feed mainly on fish, shellfish, amphibians as well as plant matter. They have remarkably developed teeth with two rounded teeth at the front of the upper jaw while numerous crushing teeth are found in lower jaw. These arrangements enable the fish to perform a unique style of eating their prey through sucking the prey, crushing it and then chewing the broken carcass.
In regard to the predation upon the African lungfish, the shoebill bird seems the most common predators.
In aquarium, lungfishes are known to adapt and accept –depending on their size- a variety of foods including prawn, mussel, fish as well as plant materials such as algae wafers and vegetable
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Through the tadpole-like hatchlings, use external gills to breathe hatched larvae use fan-like gills to breath until the lungs are formed and used for breathing.
Aestivation: a remarkable adaptation performed by the species in situations when water oxygen drops to very low levels and what water dries-up. Upon performing the aestivation, the fish start digging and forming a tunnel leading to a chamber in which fish counteract the dryness. The adapted lung enables the fish to extract the oxygen from the air.
If the situation gets worse and the fish becomes totally exposed to the air, the fish excretes a special mucous which upon drying it forms a “cocoon” in which the fish enters the aestivation which may last three to five years without food or water until the dryness ends and the fish is back to normal life.
The swim bladder of the African lungfish is modified into a functional lung-like organ that enables the fish to breathe directly from the atmospheric

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