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Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 13:50 EDT

West African Lungfish, Protopterus annectens

West African Lungfish thrive in fresh water in the West African countries of Senegal, Niger, Gambia, Volta and Chad basins, where the water temp ranges from 77 to 86 degrees. They also can be found in tributaries of the Chari River in Western Sudan.

It is eel-like in looks with a long slender body containing 34 – 37 pairs of ribs. The body can be 9 – 15 times the length of its head with small eyes and a prominent snout. The pectoral fins (fins on each side closest to the head) are fringed with a trailing filament and 3 times the length of its head. The pelvic fins (fins on each side closer to the middle of the body) also have a trailing filament and are 2 times the length of its head. Three external gills are located above the pectoral fins and are to the rear of the gill slits.

The West African Lungfish has smooth scales, 40 – 50 between the gill flap and the anus, and 36 – 40 between its head and dorsal fin (fin on the top of the fish). Its upper color is a medium olive or brown, while its lower color is lighter. Blackish or brownish spots cover the body and fins, except for the belly. They can reach a length of 3.28 feet.

It is a very aggressive carnivore and will attack any other fish that invades its territory. Its diet consists of a variety of smaller fish, larvae, insects, and almost any other type of aquatic animal that swims by.

Another interesting fact about the West African Lungfish is that during the dry season it hibernates. It Burrows itself into the mud and secretes a slimy substance around itself creating a hard cocoon, leaving a small opening for breathing. Its swim bladder acts as lungs so it can breathe air. When the rainy season returns it eats it way out of its cocoon and returns to life as a fish.

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Class: Sarcopterygii

Subclass: Dipnoi

Order: Lepidosireniformes

Family: Protopteridae

Image Credit: Lankester Edwin Ray/Wikipedia

West African Lungfish Protopterus annectens