West African lungfish

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West African lungfish
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Class: Sarcopterygii
Subclass: Dipnoi
Order: Lepidosireniformes
Family: Protopteridae
Genus: Protopterus
Species: P. annectens
Binomial name
Protopterus annectens
(Owen, 1839)[2]

The West African lungfish (Protopterus annectens), also known as the Tana lungfish, is a species of African lungfish.[1][3] It is found in a wide range of freshwater habitats in West and Middle Africa, as well as the northern half of Southern Africa.[1][3]


P. annectens has a prominent snout and small eyes. Its body is long and eel-like, some 9–15 times the length of the head. It has two pairs of long, filamentous fins. The pectoral fins have a basal fringe and are about three times the head length, while its pelvic fins are about twice the head length. In general, three external gills are inserted posterior to the gill slits and above the pectoral fins.

It has cycloid scales embedded in the skin. About 40–50 scales occur between the operculum and the anus, and 36–40 around the body before the origin of the dorsal fin. It has 34–37 pairs of ribs. The dorsal side is olive or brown in color and the ventral side is lighter, with great blackish or brownish spots on the body and fins except on its belly.[4] They reach a length of about 1 m (3.3 ft) in the wild .[5]


The West African lungfish is distributed throughout Africa.[6] It has two subspecies; P. a. annectens is found primarily in the basins of Sahel as well as Guinea and Sierra Leone whilst the other subspecies, P. a. brieni is known largely from the upper Congo River area and from the Zambezi of Mozambique.[6]


Like other African lungfish, the West African lungfish is an obligate air breather and a freshwater-dwelling fish.[6] It is demersal, meaning that it lives primarily buried within riverbeds. Due to the dry season frequently drying the rivers and floodplains in which it lives, the West African lungfish can aestivate for up to a year; however the West African lungfish generally only estivates between wet seasons.[6]


The Tana lungfish has a diet not unlike other lungfish, consisting of various mollusks, crabs, prawn, and small fish within its distribution.[6] It can also go for up to 3 1/2 years without any food intake whatsoever. During this time period it behaves much like an estivating fish in that it buries itself in the mud and does not move until more favorable conditions occur.[6]



  1. ^ a b c Snoeks, J.; Laleye, P. & Contreras-MacBeath, T. (2007). "Protopterus annectens". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 16 July 2010.  P. annectens has been assessed as Least Concern because it has a very large range, and there are no known widespread threats to the species.
  2. ^ ITIS.gov (Retrieved May 13, 2010.)
  3. ^ a b Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2014). "Protopterus annectens" in FishBase. April 2014 version.
  4. ^ EOL.org
  5. ^ Primitivefishes.com (Retrieved May 13, 2010.)
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Protopterus annectens summary page". FishBase. Retrieved 2015-06-08. 

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