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Protopterus annectens  (Owen, 1839)

West African lungfish
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Protopterus annectens
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Classification / Names Common names | Synonyms | Catalog of Fishes (gen., sp.) | ITIS | CoL | WoRMS | Cloffa

Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fishes) > Lepidosireniformes (South American and African lungfishes) > Protopteridae (African lungfishes)
Etymology: Protopterus: Greek, pro = first, in front of + Greek, pteron = wing, fin (Ref. 45335).

Environment / Climate / Range Ecology

Freshwater; demersal; potamodromous (Ref. 51243).   Tropical; 25°C - 30°C (Ref. 2059); 22°N - 30°S

Size / Weight / Age

Maturity: Lm ?  range ? - ? cm
Max length : 100.0 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 3799); max. published weight: 4.0 kg (Ref. 3069)

Short description Morphology | Morphometrics

Prominent snout; small eyes, its diameter 9-15 times in the head length (Ref. 2834). Paired fins long and filamentous (Ref. 367). Pectoral fins with a basal fringe are about 3 times the head length; pelvic fins are about 2 times the head length (Ref. 2834). In general 3 external gills inserted posterior to the gill slits and above pectoral fins (Ref. 2834). 40-50 scales between operculum and anus, 36-40 around the body before dorsal-fin origin (Ref. 2834). 34-37 pairs of ribs (Ref. 41467). Cycloid scales embedded in the skin (Ref. 3023). Dorsal side olive or brown colored, ventral side lighter; great blackish or brownish spots on the body and fins except on the belly (Ref. 367).

Distribution Countries | FAO areas | Ecosystems | Occurrences | Point map | Introductions | Faunafri

Africa: Senegal, Niger, Gambia, Volta and Chad basins, also in temporary tributaries of Chari River in Western Sudan (Ref. 3498); Bandama and Comoé basins in Côte d'Ivoire and certain basins of Sierra Leone and Guinea (Ref. 2834). Protopterus annectens brieni is known from the upper Congo River basin), Lake Rukwa drainage (Ref. 40587), middle and lower Zambezi, lower Pungwe, Buzi and Sabi, upper Cubango and Okavango (Ref. 3498).

Biology     Glossary (e.g. epibenthic)

Found in marginal swamps and backwaters of rivers and lakes (Ref. 30488). It is associated strongly with life of aquatic plants in terms of breeding and feeding ecologies (Ref. 30558). Nests are made in weedy areas (Ref. 30558). It normally lives on flood plains and when these dry up, during the dry season, it secretes a thin slime around itself which dries into a fragile cocoon; it can exist in this state for over a year, although normally it hibernates only from the end of one wet season to the start of the next (Ref. 3023, Ref. 30558). For hibernating the fish literally chews its way into the substrate ejecting mud out of its gill openings; it may reach a depth of 3-25 cm below the bottom depending on the length of the fish; the lungfish wriggles around, thereby hollowing out a bulb-shaped chamber and coming to rest with its nose pointing upward; they breathe air at the mouth of the chamber's tube and then sink back into the expanded part of the chamber (Ref. 36739). As the water disappears the respiratory trips cease; air reaches the fish via the tube to the surface (Ref. 36739). Also under aquatic conditions this lungfish can survive more than three and half years of starvation; it shows the same behavior - no motion and same body posture - as an aestivating specimen (Ref. 51339). Carnivorous, food includes mollusks (Ref. 30488), but also frogs, fish and seed (Ref. 13851); in Kenya it feeds mostly on plant material, like roots (Ref. 30558).

Life cycle and mating behavior Maturity | Reproduction | Spawning | Eggs | Fecundity | Larvae

Lungfish spawn in the swamps during the wet season; they build nests in which the eggs, white in colour and about 4 mm diameter, are laid; the young are cared for by the males (Ref. 13851). The larvae hatch in eight days, and leave the nest in twenty days (Ref. 41544).

Main reference Upload your references | References | Coordinator | Collaborators

Teugels, G.G., C. Lévêque, D. Paugy and K. Traoré, 1988. État des connaissances sur la faune ichtyologique des bassins côtiers de Côte d'Ivoire et de l'ouest du Ghana. Rev. Hydrobiol. Trop. 21(3):221-237. (Ref. 272)

IUCN Red List Status (Ref. 96402)

CITES (Ref. 94142)

Not Evaluated

Threat to humans


Human uses

Fisheries: minor commercial; aquaculture: commercial
FAO(Publication : search) | FisheriesWiki | Sea Around Us

More information

Common names
Egg development
Larval dynamics
Aquaculture profile
Allele frequencies
Mass conversion
Stamps, Coins
Swim. type
Gill area


Special reports

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Internet sources

BHL | Cloffa | Websites from users | Check FishWatcher | CISTI | Catalog of Fishes (gen., sp.) | DiscoverLife | Faunafri | Fishtrace | GenBank(genome, nucleotide) | GOBASE | Google Books | Google Scholar | Google | IGFA World Record | iSpecies | Public aquariums | PubMed | Scirus | SeaLifeBase | Tree of Life | uBio | Wikipedia(Go, Search) | World Records Freshwater Fishing | Zoological Record

Estimates of some properties based on models

Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82805):  PD50 = 0.6602   [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high].
Bayesian length-weight: a=0.00339 (0.00131 - 0.00874), b=3.12 (2.89 - 3.35), based on LWR estimates for this (Sub)Family-body shape (Ref. 93245).
Trophic Level (Ref. 69278):  3.8   ±0.64 se; Based on food items.
Resilience (Ref. 69278):  Low, minimum population doubling time 4.5 - 14 years (tmax = 23 (in captivity); Fec < 1,000).
Vulnerability (Ref. 59153):  Moderate vulnerability (42 of 100) .
Price category (Ref. 80766):   Unknown.