average 2 ft, up to 3.5 ft
fish, amphibians, snakes, turtles and aquatic insects
Also known as “mudfish” or “lungfish.”
Distinguishing features: a large fish, up to 3 ½’ long with a cylindrical body. The most striking feature is a long dorsal fin running nearly the length of the body. This fin is particularly striking when moving in its characteristic undulating motion. Breeding males have turquoise lips, throat, and belly, with an eye spot on the upper tail.
Range, habitat and behavior: Bowfin are native to central and eastern North America, and prefer heavily vegetated areas. They are primarily nocturnal.
Bowfin are often described as “prehistoric relics”. This is because species of the Amiidae family can be traced in fossils from the Cretaceous, Eocene and Jurassic period – 150 million years ago! But today bowfin are the only surviving species from its family. Fossils show that bowfin very close to their present form have existed for over a hundred million years.
Bowfin have an air bladder rich with blood vessels. This allows them to breathe air directly from the surface and survive in water with low oxygen levels. This also allows Bowfin to bury themselves in the mud and survive if their watery habitat dries up, for three weeks or more.
Bowfin could be mistaken for the similar-looking non-native snakehead. Both have very long dorsal fins, but the snakehead will have a very long anal (underside) fin as well, while the bowfin have a short anal fin.
The already strange-looking bowfin is made even stranger-looking by long tubular external nostrils. Be sure to look for those if you find a bowfin.