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Nile Bichir
Nile Bichir
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Polypteriformes
Family: Polypteridae

See text for species.

The bichirs are a family, Polypteridae, of archaic-looking ray-finned fishes, the sole family in the order Polypteriformes. They have thick bonelike scales and a series of dorsal finlets instead of a single fin. The finlets are topped with sharp spines. Their jaw structure more closely resembles that of the tetrapods than that of the teleost fishes. Bichirs have a number of other primitive characteristics, such as fleshy pectoral fins and spiracles. All species occur in freshwater habitats in Africa, mainly swampy, shallow floodplains and estuaries. They have rudimentary lungs, which allow them to obtain oxygen from the air when in poorly oxygenated waters. [1]They are popular subjects of public and large hobby aquaria.


There are eighteen extant species and subspecies in two genera:[2]

  • Genus Erpetoichthys
    • Reedfish, Erpetoichthys calabaricus Smith, 1865.
  • Genus Polypterus
    • Guinean bichir, Polypterus ansorgii Boulenger, 1910.
      Nile bichir, Polypterus bichir bichir Lacépède, 1803.
      Polypterus bichir katangae Poll, 1941.
      Bichir, Polypterus bichir lapradei Steindachner, 1869.
      Barred bichir, Polypterus delhezi Boulenger, 1899.
      Polypterus endlicheri congicus Boulenger, 1898.
      Saddled bichir, Polypterus endlicheri endlicheri Heckel, 1847.
      Polypterus mokelembembe Schliewen & Schafer, 2006.[3]
      Ornate bichir, Polypterus ornatipinnis Boulenger, 1902.
      Polypterus palmas buettikoferi Steindachner, 1891.
      Shortfin bichir, Polypterus palmas palmas Ayres, 1850.
      Polypterus palmas polli Gosse, 1988.
      West African bichir, Polypterus retropinnis Vaillant, 1899.
      Polypterus senegalus meridionalis Poll, 1941.
      Gray bichir, Polypterus senegalus senegalus Cuvier, 1829.
      Polypterus teugelsi Britz, 2004.
      Mottled bichir, Polypterus weeksii Boulenger, 1898.

Extinct species include:

  • Polypterus faraou Otero et al., 2006 — late Miocene.[4] in my opinion the fish looks very funny>


  1. ^ Berra, Tim M. (2001). Freshwater Fish Distribution. San Diego: Academic Press. ISBN 0120931567
  2. ^ "Polypteridae". FishBase. Ed. Ranier Froese and Daniel Pauly. February 2006 version. N.p.: FishBase, 2006.
  3. ^ Schliewen & Schafer (2006). "Polypterus mokelembembe, a new species of bichir from the central Congo River basin (Actinopterygii: Cladistia: Polypteridae).". Zootaxa 1129: 23.
  4. ^ Otero, Likius, Vignaud & Brunet (2006). "A new polypterid fish: Polypterus faraou sp. nov. (Cladistia, Polypteridae) from the Late Miocene, Toros-Menalla, Chad". Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 146 (2): 227. DOI:10.1111/j.1096-3642.2006.00201.x.

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