Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Amia calva
Today's animal is one of those really neat fish that harkens back to the Dinosaur days! They are the Bowfins, and they are the only surviving members of their entire Family, as well as their whole Order. The three other extinct Families within the Order date back between the Jurassic and the Eocene, with most of the fossils going back 100 million years!

For whatever reason, the other neat ancient fish we've talked about are found in more exotic locations (or at least exotic to Americans)-- the Coelocanth of South Africa, the Lungfish of Australia, etc. But congratulations North America! This is a weird old fish all your own! Bowfins are found in southern Canada and in the eastern United States, where they can be found in the Great Lakes, as well as in other lakes and slow moving rivers.

You can tell that the Bowfin come from an ancient lineage because they have a half bone, half cartilage skeletal system. They also have the ability to breathe air, thanks to a modified swim bladder that acts as a primitive lung. This lung also lets them live in siltier and more stagnant waters. They are indiscriminate predators, and feed on small fish, invertebrates, and amphibians.

Bowfin reproduction is a curious affair-- the males actually build nests! They construct nests out of plant fibers that can be as large as 3ft in diameter. They then mate with a female (sometimes multiple females), the eggs are laid, and the female(s) depart. The male Bowfin stands watch over his eggs, protecting them until they hatch. He then keeps watch over his new brood until they grow to lengths of around 4in.

Bowfin are not often hunted commercially, as their meat is less tasty than that of other fish, and they tend to retain more Mercury. They are popular with some sport anglers, due to their fighting spirit, but many consider them to be pests since they feed on more desirable aquatic animals.

IUCN Status : Not Listed
Location : North America
Size : Length up to 43in (1.1m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Actinopterygii -- Order : Amiiformes
Family : Amiidae -- Genus : Amia -- Species : A. calva

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