Other Free Encyclopedias » Animal Life Resource » Fish and Other Cold-Blooded Vertebrates » Bichirs: Polypteriformes - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Bichir (polypterus Ornatipinnis): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, BICHIRS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS

Bichirs: Polypteriformes - Bichir (polypterus Ornatipinnis): Species Account

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Physical characteristics: The maximum length of bichirs is 24 inches (60 centimeters). The body is protected by an armor of large, diamond-shaped bony scales. These fishes are long and thin and have nine or ten small dorsal finlets. The pelvic fins are near the tail. Bichirs have a white belly with dark spots on the head, sides, and top and have parallel bands on the fins.

Geographic range: Bichirs live in central and eastern Africa in the Congo Basin and Lake Tanganyika.

Habitat: Bichirs live in lakes, rivers, floodplains, and swamps, including waters with low oxygen content.

Bichirs are reported to "walk" over land for small distances to feed on insects. They are able to absorb oxygen directly from the air for at least a few hours. (Phillip Colla-V&W/Bruce Coleman Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Diet: Bichirs feed mostly at night and seek prey such as other fishes, frogs, insects, and crustaceans.

Behavior and reproduction: Bichirs often sit motionless on the bottom, resting on their pectoral fins so that the head and front of the body are slightly elevated. They gulp air from the surface in stagnant water. During courtship, bichirs make energetic twisting, turning, and darting movements. The male surrounds the female's genital opening with his anal and caudal fins, fertilizes the eggs, and then scatters them by thrashing his tail.

Bichirs and people: Bichirs are a food fish and are captured for the aquarium business.

Conservation status: Bichirs are not threatened or endangered. ∎



Berra, Tim M. Freshwater Fish Distribution. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 2001.

Ricciuti, Edward R. Fish. Woodbridge, CT: Blackbirch, 1993.

Web sites:

Caldas, Eduardo Pereira. "Bichir (Polypterus ornatipinnis)." WhoZoo. http://www.whozoo.org/Anlife99/eduardo/Bichir4.htm (accessed on August 29, 2004).

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