Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes) > Polypteriformes
(Bichirs) > Polypteridae
Etymology: Polypterus: Greek, poly = a lot of + Greek, pteron = wing, fin (Ref. 45335); bichir: Named after the local name for the fish (Ref. 43537).
Environment / Climate / Range
Freshwater; demersal; potamodromous (Ref. 51243). Tropical
Size / Weight / Age
Maturity: Lm ?  range ? - ? cm
Max length : 74.0 cm TL male/unsexed; (Ref. 2835); max. published weight: 2.7 kg (Ref. 367)
(total): 14 - 18;
soft rays: 13 - 16;
Vertebrae: 61 - 62. Subcylindrical body; its depth 6.8-10.3 times in its length; head length 4.1-5.5 times in body length (Ref. 2835). Head width 1.7-2.3 times in head length, eye-diameter 8.5-13.0 times in head length (Ref. 2835). Lower jaw slightly longer than upper jaw (Ref. 2835, Ref. 42908). Number of dorsal finlets: 14-18 (Ref. 42908); dorsal finlets overlapping when folded down (Ref. 31439). Number of branched dorsal and caudal rays: 19-21 (Ref. 367). Pectoral fin reaching first dorsal spine (Ref. 367). Ganoid scales (Ref. 36900, Ref. 42904): 63-70 lateral line scales; 46-54 scales around body; 11-16 predorsal scales (Ref. 2835, Ref. 42908). Lateral line scales are notched on the posterior border (Ref. 2835). The color is olive, but white on the ventral side, with three darker longitudinal bands on the lateral side, which are more visible in young than adults; pectoral and pelvic fins have greenish and yellowish transversal bands (Ref. 367, Ref. 2835).
Africa: Nile River, Lake Turkana and Omo River; Lake Chad, Chari River and Logone River; Senegal River, Gambia River, Geba River, Volta River, Niger, Benoue River and Ouémé River. Previously, 2 subspecies were recognized: Polypterus bichir bichir and Polypterus bichir lapradei.
Polypterus bichir bichir likes shallow water and will often lie basking fo hours near the surface, but when swimming the fish is very pliant, and can turn and twist like an eel (Ref. 4904). The eggs are deposited in weeds, where the adult fish guards the eggs and young (Ref. 36900). It feeds on bottom-feeding fish (Ref. 36900) and is essentially piscivorous (Ref. 367).
Life cycle and mating behavior
Maturity | Reproduction | Spawning | Eggs | Fecundity | Larvae
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: commercial; aquarium: public aquariums
ReferencesAquacultureAquaculture profileStrainsGeneticsAllele frequenciesHeritabilityDiseasesProcessingMass conversion
Estimates of some properties based on models
Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82805
= 0.5002 [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high].
Bayesian length-weight: a=0.00479 (0.00206 - 0.01113), b=3.05 (2.84 - 3.26), based on LWR estimates for this (Sub)Family-body shape (Ref. 93245
Trophic Level (Ref. 69278
): 4.5 ±0.80 se; Based on food items.
Resilience (Ref. 69278
Vulnerability (Ref. 59153
): Low to moderate vulnerability (32 of 100) .