The largest species reach about 200 centimetres (6.6 ft) long.African lungfishes generally inhabit shallow waters, such as swamps and marshes; however, they are also found in larger lakes such as Lake Victoria. They can live out of water for many months in burrows of hardened mud beneath a dried-up stream bed. They are carnivorous, eating crustaceans, aquatic insect larvae, and molluscs
The African lungfish is an example of how the evolutionary transition from breathing water to breathing air can happen. Lungfish are periodically exposed to water with low oxygen content or situations into which their aquatic environment dries up. The lung contains many thin-walled blood vessels, so blood flowing through those vessels can pick up oxygen from air gulped into the lung.
The African lungfishes are obligate air breathers, with reduced gills in the adults. They have two anterior gill arches that retain gills, though they are too small to function as the sole respiratory apparatus. The lungfish heart has adaptations that partially separate the flow of blood into its pulmonary and systemic circuits. The atrium is partially divided, so that the left side receives oxygenated blood and the right side receives deoxygenated blood from the other tissues.
As a result oxygenated blood mostly goes to the anterior gill arches and the deoxygenated blood mostly goes to the posterior arches. African lungfishes breed at the beginning of the rainy season. Native Africans have been found to dig up lungfishes, burrow and all, and store it for later use when they want fresh fish to eat. These fish have also been carried in their mud burrows for exhibition in the United States.
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