The West African lungfish has the widest distribution of any species in the family, found across large stretches of western and central Africa. It is also found in northern portions of southern Africa, where it inhabits a variety of freshwater habitats including rivers, streams, ponds, swamps and other waterlogged environments.

The African lungfish certainly lives up to its name. These fish have barely changed over the last 400 million years, and are sometimes called “living fossils.” It lives in rivers and other waterways in Africa. The secret to its longevity is its adaptations—it has two lungs like we do, which means it can breathe air if necessary.  this species is able to survive in water or out.

The West African lungfish is found throughout Africa, specifically in the basins of Sahel as well as Guinea and Sierra Leone. This subspecies of the lungfish has two different subspecies; P. a. annectens is found primarily in the basins of Sahel, while the other subspecies, P. a. brieni is known.

A lungfish’s hibernation also includes a behavioral adaptation. A behavioral adaptation is a way an organism acts. Prior to hibernation, lungfish frantically burrow into the muddy ground as a means of protection. Their behavior as they dig allows them to create a safe place where they can survive over the long period of dormancy.

The African lungfish lives in the Mbali River of the Republic of South Africa. It has a five-chambered heart, which is an adaptation to its low-oxygen habitat. It also has three sets of gill arches on each side, instead of two as in most fish.

Lungfish do have gills, but they also have true lungs that enable them to breathe through their mouth. The lungfish must be able to access air in order to breathe, or else it will drown.

African Lungfish Physical Appearance

  • The African lungfish has a prominent snout and small eyes.
  • Its body is long and eel-like. It has two pairs of long, filamentous fins.
  • The pectoral fins have a basal fringe and are long, while its pelvic fins are about twice the head length.
  • In general, three external gills are inserted posterior to to the gill slits and above the pectoral fins.

African lungfish are long, slender fish with eel-like bodies. They have “fins” at their backs that allow them to propel themselves forward, as well as alternating “steps” that enable them to move in a hopping motion.

African lungfish with physical appearance

African lungfish have a long, dark-colored body that’s covered with black or brown spots. They have a lighter colored dorsal side. An African lungfish can reach up to 39 inches in length and weigh 10 pounds or less. They can live for  20years.

African Lungfish Habitat

African lungfish are obligate air breathers, meaning they must always have access to the surface for air. They are freshwater fish that live in riverbeds of Africa. During dry seasons, the water levels can become so low that African lungfish burrow into the sand and can hibernate for up to a year. Most African lungfish only aestivate. African lungfish can aestivate for up to a year.

lungfish dig deep into the mud, forming a safe and comfortable home. When ready to sleep, it wriggles around and creates a tunnel for air. During this state of suspended animation, lungfish take in no food or water and make no urine or waste.

African lungfish in its habitat

lungfish can tolerate water with little oxygen and will burrow themselves into mud for protection or to escape predators. They can do this because they have a unique ability to breathe air, which allows them to survive under low levels of oxygen.

African Lungfish Feeding

African lungfish are a part of the Class Sarcopterygii, the subclass Dipnoi, and order Ceratodontiformes. Lungfish species can range in size from 1 to 3 ft (0.3 M). They hunt for frogs, fish, mollusks, tree roots and seeds. The African lungfish can survive up to 3.5 years without eating.

African Lungfish Breeding

The lungfish is found in Africa and southern Asia. They are freshwater fish that live in burrows in the mud, with only their heads sticking out to breathe. Females lay their eggs in a nest they dig in areas of vegetation near water. Once the eggs hatch after about two weeks, the male guards them for up to two months until they can survive on their own.

lungfish during breeding


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Kehinde Ezekiel is a freelance writer who has covered many topics, including home improvement, gardening, pets, tech, and parenting.

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