Fun Lungfish Facts For Kids

Moumita Dutta
Oct 20, 2022 By Moumita Dutta
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Isobel Murphy
Lungfish facts are interesting to learn about

If you are interested in amazing facts about animals, then you must go through the facts about lungfish (also called salamander fish) listed here! These amazing fish have two lungs and gills, meaning that lungfish can live both on land and in water.

When on the land, they breathe with their lungs, and when they are under the water's surface, they use their gills. Only the Queensland or the Australian lungfish species have one lung.

In a situation of crisis, the lungfish creates a layer of mucus and shrinks into a cocoon, and can live for almost a year inside it. The lungfish in West Africa hibernate at the bottom of the ocean and can live for up to five years breathing only from their gills.

Lungfish are able to live on the land for months and even a year.

The fins of lungfish are quite unique, especially the pelvic ones that look a bit like spaghetti! A few lungfish species look almost eel-like.

There have been minimal modern adaptations in the characteristics of these prehistoric creatures over time and, for this reason, they are sometimes called 'living fossils'. Now there are six species of lungfish: the Queensland lungfish, South American lungfish, marbled lungfish, gilled lungfish, West African lungfish, and spotted lungfish.

The most important features of a lungfish are their modified version of lungs for buoyancy, breathing, and waste extraction. Lungfish are even edible creatures and are often served with other fish dishes for humans to eat.

The blood in the fish's heart is also oxygen-less, how interesting! Keep reading if you want to know more about lungfish.

Lungfish Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a lungfish?

Lungfish are freshwater fish that still retain their primitive adaptations. They are similar to amphibians in nature as they can survive both on land and in water. Dipnoi is their order name and they have a multipurpose lung (or pair of lungs) which makes them unique among fish. Lungfishes are also covered in scales.

What class of animal does a lungfish belong to?

The lungfish belongs to the Sarcopterygii class of the animal kingdom. It falls under the superclass Osteichthyes and the phylum of lungfish is Chordata. Fish under the Sarcopterygii class have bones and are known as lobe-finned fish.

How many lungfish are there in the world?

There are six species of lungfish living in the world today, but the exact number of fish of each of these species is not known.

Where does a lungfish live?

The lungfish is mostly found living in the freshwater of tropical regions across the globe. The South American lungfish is found in the swamps and slow-moving waters of Paraguay and the Amazon. The marbled lungfish, gilled lungfish, West-African lungfish, and Spotted lungfish are all found in Africa in river basins, backwaters, and freshwater swamps.

What is a lungfish's habitat?

The main habitats of lungfishes are streams, rivers, lakes, and other wetlands. Ambient light is distributed in the spectral medium throughout a typical lungfish habitat.

In a time of crisis, the lungfish make their own habitat in order to survive for months and even years. This habitat is made of their own mucus, which they use as a cocoon to provide them with shelter for almost five years if necessary.

Who do lungfish live with?

Lungfish are known to live in groups in rivers, streams, and other wetlands.

How long does a lungfish live?

Generally, lungfishes live for a long time. They can survive almost one year without water and about three years without eating! Some of the species can live up to 100 years, but an Australian lungfish has an average life expectancy of between 20 and 25 years.

How do they reproduce?

Lungfish get along well in pairs, and a lengthy courtship is often followed by the laying of eggs. Australian lungfish lay eggs on aquatic plants and adult female African lungfish lay eggs on a nest preferably in a weedy area.

After they are hatched, males guard the eggs for nearly two months. Australian lungfish, on the other hand, do not hatch or guard their eggs.

After laying them, in three to four weeks the eggs hatch and creatures resembling tadpoles come out which eventually grow up to be Australian lungfish themselves. Interestingly, South American lungfishes grow appendages for reproduction which are feathery and are actually a modified version of their pelvic fins.

What is their conservation status?

Different species of lungfish are at different stages of conservation. Australian lungfish are classified as Endangered and the State Government of Queensland has built a dam in order to protect these creatures from becoming extinct.

A special permit is required to capture them. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora had listed the Australian lungfish in Appendix 2. On the other hand, African lungfish are listed as Least Concern as their conservation status by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

Lungfish Fun Facts

What do lungfish look like?

Lungfish are cylindrical in shape and are covered with scales. The appearance is not very flattering and they are usually white and gray in color.

The structure of the Dipnoi is like any other fish, in place of limbs they have pectoral and pelvic fins which vary among their different species (including the Australian, African, and South American lungfish). Marbled lungfish have a tapered tail that is elongated from their body.

They have pectoral and pelvic fins which are quite long and very thin, almost giving the look of spaghetti!

In South American lungfish, the pectoral fins are thread-like thin and these pelvic fins become a little thicker towards their ends. The gilled lungfish has a pattern of black spots with a pale grey belly.

Finally, lungfish found in West Africa have pectoral fins with a basal fringe and pelvic fins that are twice as large as their heads. This West African species also has an elongated eel-like body with a long snout.

Lungfish facts about these vertebrates are fun to read.

How cute are they?

The lungfish is a wild creature and, although they are fascinating, they are not particularly cute.

How do they communicate?

Fish can hear different sounds for communication, and along with this they also use their swim bladder to create vibrations to interact with each other. Lungfish are no exception and do the same for communication.

How big is a lungfish?

The different species of lungfish differ in size. The spotted lungfish is the smallest one.

It grows to grows about 17 in (44 cm) long which makes it a little shorter than a human baby! The African lungfish (Protopterus aethiopicus) is the largest lungfish at 84 in (213.36 cm) long, which makes it as long as the neck of an adult giraffe.

How fast can a lungfish swim?

The maximum speed of a freshwater fish is about 7 miles per hour. Whilst the exact speed of a lungfish is not know, it is believed to be around this average.

How much does a lungfish weigh?

The lungfish found in Australia are not very big in size and weigh up to 22 lb (10 kg). The marbled lungfish and West African lungfish species are bigger in size and can weigh up to 40 lb (18 kg).

What are their male and female names of the species?

Like any other fish, lungfish do not have specific names according to their gender, both are simply called lungfish.

What would you call a baby lungfish?

Baby fish are called fry so lungfish babies are called fry too!

What do they eat?

Lungfish source food from smaller fish, other creatures, and sometimes their own species. They are omnivores, eating plants at the bottom of the water along with animals. Lungfish live in freshwater, where not many bigger creatures live, making lungfish an apex predator. African lungfish eat tadpoles, worms, and other water-dwelling animals.

Are they dangerous?

Lungfish are predatory fish, as they are most commonly the largest fish in their freshwater lakes or in rivers. Despite this, they are not very aggressive in nature. However, lungfish will attack whichever fish they think they can eat. Sometimes lungfish do get attacked by bigger fish, but that is rare.

Would they make a good pet?

Lungfish require huge aquariums to roam around freely in. Despite this, African lungfish are sold as domestic pets and can be safe for a home environment if provided with the right care and equipment.

Did you know...

The African and South American species of lungfish burrow themselves in mud in order to hibernate during a period of dormancy also called estivation. In order to survive this estivation, the Dipnoi has to slow down its metabolic rate to as low as 1/60th of its normal metabolic rate and the burrows help them to do this.

An extinct species called  Gnathorhizidae (a fossil lungfish group) did similar burrowing practices in ancient times.

These primitive and prehistoric animals have similarities with their ancient fossil species as seen in their teeth and their skull shape. South American lungfish have premaxillary and maxillary bones fused which bear the teeth in their mouth.

The Mortus lungfish is found in the water surrounding the Eidolon plains and looks very different from other lungfish and Dipnoi species.

For the Australian species of lungfish, courtship features three phases. The first phase involves searching for ideal spawning sites, as a pair circles around together making their mating call.

In the next phase, almost eight males follow a female fish waiting for her to lay her eggs, forming a nest. In the final phase, these male fish swim down to shed milt over the eggs laid by the females.

Do people eat lungfish?

Yes, lungfish is often served as a meal. Lots of people living in Africa, especially the Luos, consume lungfish regularly.

How do lungfish breathe?

Lungfish can survive both on land and in water as it has lungs and external gills for breathing. The West African lungfish (Protopterus annectens) has three external gills and two lungs.

The Australian species can breathe through their lungs without needing air from their lungs at all. It is said that out of all external gills the sixth gill is used during air perfusion as it helps the air to lose carbon dioxide before reaching the lung.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Lungfish coloring pages.

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Written by Moumita Dutta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

Moumita Dutta picture

Moumita DuttaBachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.

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