This week's memo arrives courtesy Marc Kibbey, the associate curator of the Fish Division at the Museum of Biological Diversity. As such it is hard to pick a favorite fish but when pressed, Marc does have a fondness for the Bowfin.
The Bowfin exhibits a fearsome countenance. The pugnacious looking face seems to represent one tough customer, and as it turns out they are indeed aggressive and intolerant of similar sized competitors in their territory. They are voracious predators, sometimes swallowing prey half their size. Bowfin inhabit reedy or marshy areas of lakes, lowland rivers and swamps.
Their coloration matches that of the dense aquatic macrophytes where they lurk, affording them a shadowy lair from which to ambush their prey. Bowfin have caniniform, inward pointing teeth on the premaxilla, dentary and maxilla jaw bones for grasping and holding the prey (for many fish the Bowfin’s gaping maw filled with terrifyingly long, sharp teeth will be the last thing they ever see!).
Characteristics shared with other primitive fish species include extensive ossification of their thick skulls, a high number of vertebrae, and a higher proportion of caudal fin bones to caudal fin rays. Possession of a gas bladder attached to the alimentary tract via a pneumatic duct, homologous to our lungs, facilitates occupation of areas with low oxygen content; they are known to survive up to five days without breathing water.
Want to see a bowfin right here in Columbus? Head to the Grandview Heights Public Library where you can see the Natural Wonders Skelton display until Halloween night.