Dipneusti (lungfishes) > Ceratodontiformes
(Australian lungfishes) > Protopteridae
Etymology: Protopterus: Greek, pro = first, in front of + Greek, pteron = wing, fin (Ref. 45335); annectens: Named in honor of Prof. Dr. Brien (Ref. 40587).
Environment: milieu / climate zone / depth range / distribution range
Freshwater; demersal; potamodromous (Ref. 51243). Tropical; 25°C - 30°C (Ref. 2059); 22°N - 30°S
Africa: large Sahelian basins, Comoé River, Bandama River and some basins of Sierra Leone and Guinea (Protopterus annectens annectens) (Ref. 2834, 81261), upper Congo River, middle and lower Zambezi basin and all east coast rivers south to the Limpopo River (Ref. 3498, Ref. 13337), and Lake Rukwa (Ref. 13337) (Protopterus annectens brieni). Reports from the upper Cubango and Okavango system (Ref. 11970) unconfirmed (Ref. 52193, 120641).
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)
Diagnosis: Protopterus annectens annectens has an elongate body and paired fins are long and filamentous (Ref. 81261). The trunk, with 34-37 ribs, is a bit longer and the tail a bit shorter compared to Protopterus annectens brieni (Ref. 40587).
Obligate air-breathing (Ref. 126274); 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).
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).
Males of Protopterus annectens brieni excavate an U-shaped burrow to a depth of nearly 60 cm for spawning purposes. The nest is usually placed amongst the roots of aquatic vegetation where the male will attend to several females during the breeding season. He will aerate the eggs with body and fin movements and afford protection to the young for a while after incubation (Ref. 13337).
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. 125652)
Threat to humans
Fisheries: minor commercial; aquaculture: commercial
ReferencesAquacultureAquaculture profileStrainsGeneticsAllele frequenciesHeritabilityDiseasesProcessingNutrientsMass conversion
Estimates based on models
Phylogenetic diversity index (Ref. 82804
= 0.6602 [Uniqueness, from 0.5 = low to 2.0 = high].
Bayesian length-weight: a=0.00389 (0.00154 - 0.00981), b=3.10 (2.87 - 3.33), in cm total length, 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. 120179
): Low, minimum population doubling time 4.5 - 14 years (tmax = 23 (in captivity); Fec < 1,000).
Fishing Vulnerability (Ref. 59153
): High vulnerability (60 of 100).