Lungfish

There remains the fourth subclass—Dipnoi or Dipneusti, the lungfishes. The reason why these creatures, whose organization is on an antique and lowly plane, judged by fish standards, have been elevated to subclass rank is that here the air bladder is modified into a single or double elongated sac with many cellular spaces, and is connected by a short tube with the mouth, and thus serves as a lung. The peculiar structure of the heart, narial openings, and the power of existing for a considerable period out of water, are extremely amphibianlike, and they have by various naturalists been regarded as scaly sirens—a sort of connecting link between the fishes and the amphibians. They are found fossil in Paleozoic rocks, especially in the Old Red Sandstone of Great Britain, and also in the Upper Jurassic strata in Colorado.

AN AFRICAN LUNGFISH
(Protopterus annectens )

The surviving species (family Lepidosirenidæ) are widely scattered, as is characteristic of all these very ancient families. A celebrated example is the barramundi of Queensland—an elongated, flat-sided fish, covered, except on the head, with large roundish scales, and having paired fins that look more like flippers than fins. It becomes four or five feet long. It lives in still pools in which the water in the dry season becomes extremely stagnant and overladen with decomposing vegetable matter; and it is only by rising to the surface occasionally, and taking air into its lung, that it is enabled to obtain sufficientoxygen for purposes of respiration. The barramundi does not leave the water, nor can it live long in the air. It is easily captured, and is eaten by the blackfellows.

Equatorial Africa possesses three species of the genus Protopterus, which dwell in marshes, and feed voraciously on young fishes, frogs, and small animals. The form is somewhat eellike, and the paired fins are soft, slender appendages of little use, locomotion being effected by the powerful tail. Like the barramundi this fish rises at intervals to take a breath of air; its "lungs" are double, while that of the barramundi is single. In the dry time of summer the protopterus burrows deeply into the mud of the dried-up marshes, where it curls up with its head highest and subsists wholly by breathing air until the autumnal rains bring water enough to enable it to wake up and resume its aquatic life. A similar eellike species abounds in the swamps, sluggish rivers and marshes of northern South America, named Lepidosiren, and all its habits closely resemble those of the African lungfishes.