How Can Lungfish Live out of Water?
Most fish die if they are taken out of the water. However, the African lungfish (also known as the mudfish) can live for many months out of water. Lungfish are able to breathe in the air, as well as in the water. It has gills like other fish, but it also has a special air bladder which it uses like a lung.
In the summertime, when the river in which it lives dries up, the lungfish curls up in a ball of mud on the river bottom. It then goes to sleep until the rains come and the river fills up with water again. While it is sleeping, the lungfish lives on fat stored in its body.
African lungfish live in freshwater swamps, backwaters and small rivers in West and South Africa. These prehistoric animals have survived unchanged for nearly 400 million years and are sometimes referred to as “living fossils.”
African Lungfish can use their thin hind limbs to lift themselves off the bottom surface and propel themselves forward. This is probably possible because they can fill their lungs with air, adding to the buoyancy of their bodies in water. Scientists believe that lungfish may be closely related to the animals that were able to evolve and come of the water and onto land.
African lungfish are omnivorous, eating a varied diet that includes frogs, fish and mollusks as well as tree roots and seeds. They grow between 6 ½ and 40 inches long, and can weigh up to nearly 8 pounds.
The female African lungfish lays its eggs in a nest in a weedy area of its habitat. Once the eggs hatch, the males guard the young for up to two months. The larvae have external gills that are reabsorbed during their metamorphosis into fully developed lungfish. As the African lungfish develops from juvenile to adult, its teeth fuse together to form tooth plates, which are used to chew its food.