The Bowfin, Amia calva, is the last surviving member of the order Amiiformes (which includes 3 additional, now-extinct families dating from the Jurassic, to the Eocene), and of the family Amiidae (which contains numerous species in about four subfamilies, only one of which, Amiinae, is extant). The Bowfin is a freshwater piscivore, preying on fish and larger aquatic invertebrates by ambush or stalking. Native to southeastern Canada and eastern United States, they prefer shallow, weedy waters of lakes or protected back waters of rivers. Bowfin are able to breathe air, using their swim bladder, which is connected to their gastrointestinal tract and allows them to regulate their buoyancy in the water, as a primitive lung. The fish can be seen coming to the surface and gulping air. This limits them to a specific depth range in which the surface is accessible. They tend to utilize shoreline habitats that are not accessible to other predatory fish.
Description and biology 
The most distinctive characteristic of the bowfin is its very long dorsal fin consisting of 145 to 250 rays, and running from mid-back to the base of the tail. The caudal fin is a single lobe, though heterocercal. They can grow up to 109 centimetres (43 in) in length, and weigh 9.75 kilograms (21.5 lb). Other noticeable features are the black "eye spot" usually found high on the caudal peduncle, and the presence of a gular plate. The gular plate is a bony plate located on the exterior of the lower jaw, between the two sides of the lower jaw bone.
The bowfin is an indiscriminate predator that readily preys on a broad variety of arthropod and vertebrate prey, from insects and crawfish to other fish and frogs.
The male bowfin exhibits extensive parental care. The male clears an area in the mud for the female to lay eggs in, and then fertilizes them. He hovers nearby and aggressively protects the eggs and the fry after they emerge.
Bowfin are usually not considered a good food fish compared to more popular freshwater gamefish species, such as pike or trout. They are generally regarded as trash fish by sportsmen in the United States, because they eat more desirable species, including crayfish. They will occasionally strike - and sometimes ruin with their powerful jaws - artificial lures, but they generally strike on live or cut fishes. When hooked, Bowfin fight powerfully. Bowfin should be handled carefully, as they have very sharp teeth. They will continue to struggle even when pulled out of the water, and will attempt to bite anyone who is handling them.
The list of local and alternate names the bowfin is known by is lengthy, but common ones include "dogfish", "mudfish", "grindle" (or "grinnel"),"swamp muskie", "black fish", "cottonfish" "swamp bass", "poisson-castor", "Speckled Cat" "beaverfish", "Cypress trout" and "lawyer". In parts of Louisiana they are called "tchoupique" or "choupique".
While generally considered a poor-quality eating fish compared to more popular game fish, the bowfin can be palatable if properly prepared. Commercially, bowfin are harvested primarily for their eggs as caviar, though the meat also is sold. The EPA recommends minimizing consumption of bowfin because they accumulate higher amounts of mercury than most fish.
The bowfin will strike as hard as a bass or pike, are considered tough fighters, and grow as large as bass, up to 20 pounds. The Bowfin as a species is in the least concern category. Future management for the bowfin looks as though it has not been considered by many. The bowfin is a thriving species where it is found and considered a pest by most.
- Nelson, Joseph S. (2006). Fishes of the World. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. ISBN 0-471-25031-7
- Froese, Rainer, and Daniel Pauly, eds. (2009). "Amiidae" in FishBase. January 2009 version.
- Berra, Tim M. (2001). Freshwater Fish Distribution. San Diego: Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-093156-7
- Meyer, C.P. "Home." Bowfin Anglers Group. Bowfin Anglers Group. 21 March 2010.
Sepkoski, Jack (2002). "A compendium of fossil marine animal genera". Bulletins of American Paleontology 364: p.560. Retrieved 2011-05-17.
Catherine A. McCormick.1981.Central Projects of the lateral line and eight nerves in the bowfin,Amia Calva. The journal of comparative neurology 197:1-15.
JM Conlon, JH Youson, J Whittaker.1991.structure and receptor-binding activity of insulin from a holostean fish, the bowfin:Amia Calva.Biochem j. 276:261-264
T M Nguyen, T P Mommsen, S M Mims, J M Conlon.1994.Characterization of insulins and proglucagon-derived peptides from a phylogenetically ancient fish, the paddlefish:Polyodon spathula.Biochem J.300(Pt 2): 339–345
J M Conlon, J H Youson, T P Mommsen.1993.Structure and biological activity of glucagon and glucagon-like peptide from a primitive bony fish, the bowfin: Amia calva.J.295(Pt 3): 857–861.
|Wikispecies has information related to: Amia calva|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Amia calva|