Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes) > Polypteriformes
(Bichirs) > Polypteridae
Etymology: Erpetoichthys: Greek, erpeton = creeping thing + Greek, ichthys = fish (Ref. 45335); calabaricus: Named after the locality where the fish was taken: Old Calabar (Ref. 42916).
Environment / Climate / Range
Freshwater; brackish; demersal; pH range: 6.0 - 8.0; dH range: 5 - 19; depth range 0 - ? m (Ref. 557). Tropical; 22°C - 28°C (Ref. 1672)
Length at first maturity / Size / Weight / Age
Maturity: Lm 31.4  range ? - ? cm
Max length : 37.0 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 78138)
Morphology | Morphometrics
(total): 7 - 13;
soft rays: 9 - 14;
Vertebrae: 110 - 113. Body elongate and anguilliform (Ref. 42768, Ref. 42908). Body height 24 times in total length; head length 11-14 times in total length (Ref. 2835). Head without sub-operculars, very slightly flattened, 1.6-2 times longer than wide; upper jaw prominent (Ref. 2835). Lateral eyes, eye-diameter 7.5-8.5 times in head length (Ref. 2835). Dorsal fin is composed of a series of well-separated spines each supporting one or several articulated rays and a membrane (Ref. 42791). Body covered with rhombic ganoid scales (Ref. 42791). 106-114 perforated scales on longitudinal line; 30-34 around body (Ref. 2835). Brown-olive colored on dorsal part and whitish on ventral portion, a big black spot on pectoral fins (Ref. 2835).
Africa: Ogun River mouth in Nigeria to Chiloango River in Congo Brazzaville (Ref. 2835).
Found in slow flowing rivers and standing waters (Ref. 557). Apparently restricted to reedy habitats (Ref. 42768). It moves snake-wise over the bottom, but it can also side-wind quite rapidly through the water (Ref. 42873). Feeds at night on worms, crustaceans and insects (Ref. 7020). Able to breathe air and thus can tolerate low oxygen concentrations. Larvae have external gills and resemble salamander larvae (Ref. 557). The size of 90 cm TL (Ref. 3188) is not confirmed; largest size in collections is 37 cm (Ref. 78138).
Parallel swimming courtship; female deposits few eggs between anal fins of male, where they are fertilized and then scattered in vegetation where they immediately stick to substrate. This procedure is repeated many times. Eggs are 2.1-2.6 mm in diameter. Larvae hatch after 70 hours but remain attached to vegetation; 22 days after hatching the yolk sac is absorbed and larvae start feeding.
Gosse, J.-P., 1990. Polypteridae. p. 79-87. In C. Lévêque, D. Paugy and G.G. Teugels (eds.) Faune des poissons d'eaux douces et saumâtres d'Afrique de l'Ouest. Tome 1. Coll. Faune Trop. n° XXVIII. Musée Royal de l'Afrique Centrale, Tervuren and Éditions de l'ORSTOM, Paris. 384 p. (Ref. 2835)
IUCN Red List Status (Ref. 96402)
CITES (Ref. 94142)
Threat to humans
Fisheries: of no interest; aquarium: commercial
Estimates of some properties based on models
Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82805
= 1.0001 [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high].
Bayesian length-weight: a=0.00132 (0.00060 - 0.00289), b=2.99 (2.79 - 3.19), based on LWR estimates for this (Sub)Family-body shape (Ref. 93245
Trophic Level (Ref. 69278
): 3.3 ±0.40 se; Based on food items.
Resilience (Ref. 69278
): Low, minimum population doubling time 4.5 - 14 years (tmax=20; Fec < 1,000).
Vulnerability (Ref. 59153
): Low vulnerability (20 of 100) .