The bowfins are an order (Amiiformes) of primitive ray-finned fish. Only one species, the bowfin Amia calva, family Amiidae, exists today, although additional species in six families are known from Jurassic, Cretaceous, and Eocene fossils. These included the huge Leedsicthys, the biggest fish that ever existed. The bowfin and the gar are two of the freshwater fishes still extant that existed, almost unchanged from their current form, while the great dinosaurs roamed the earth.
The most distinctive characteristic of the bowfin is its very long dorsal fin consisting of 45 to 50 rays, and running from mid-back to the base of the tail. The caudal fin is a single lobe. They can grow up to 1 meter in length, and weigh 7 kg. Not a very good food fish compared to many other freshwater species, they are often considered "trash" fish by sportsmen who catch them, and are scorned for their voracious appetite in eating both gamefish and panfish of more desirable species. However, they battle powerfully when hooked, offering a tremendous fight to the angler. Bowfin, when caught, should be handled carefully. They are very pugnacious, and consider themselves a match for anything - including a human being. Once in the boat, they will make every attempt they can at biting the fisherman - and they have a mouthful of very sharp teeth.
Bowfins are found throughout eastern North America, typically in slow-moving backwaters. When the oxygen level is low (as often happens in still waters), the bowfin can rise to the surface and gulp air into its swim bladder, which is lined with blood vessels and can serve as a sort of lung.
The list of local and alternate names the bowfin is known by is lengthy, but common ones include "dogfish", "grindle" and "lawyer".
They are nocturnal feeders, eating a variety of invertebrates (insects, crayfish) and vertebrates (frogs, fishes of all types).
Males are said to turn "bluish" when breeding . The male bowfin exhibits extensive parental care. He clears an area in the mud for the female to lay eggs in, and then he fertilizes them. He hovers nearby and aggressively protects the eggs and the fry after they emerge.
- ^ Berra, Tim M. (2001). Freshwater Fish Distribution. San Diego: Academic Press. ISBN 0120931567