Did you know that there is a fish with lungs? This is no joke! It is not an urban legend....or maybe I should say a desert legend. This is the honest truth!
One of our staff members at Sahel, who grew up here in Niger and in Burkina Faso, told us how he went on a fishing trip in the US. When he told them about this kind of fish, they looked at him like he had lost his mind.
Well, it does seem a little far-fetched. But it's true!
They are called lungfish or more precisely "protopterus".
Many Songhai are fishermen because the Songhai live along the Niger River. The Niger River does not run through Tera, but one of the very large streams that feeds into the Niger River does. My friend's husband is one of these fisherman. A few days ago I was at her house and a huge fish was laying on the ground. I asked her what it was and she said it was a kind of fish that can breathe. In Songhai it is a "siiba".
Now, I looked this guy up on the internet just to get my facts straight and this is what I found out:
1. Lungfish are found in South America, West and Central Africa, and Australia.
2. The African variety have two lungs, use their fins (which look like four legs!) to feel their surroundings, live in fresh water, and can grow as long as six feet long.
3. During the spawning season the male and female of the African species build a nest for their eggs, then after the female lays the eggs, the male guards the nest.
4. "The African lungfishes ... dig out holes in the mud but cover themselves completely with a secretion that is given off by their bodies. As the water level lowers the secretions on their bodies will dry to form a kind of leathery cocoon that encases them until sufficient water has returned. During this waterless type of hibernation, both species remain dormant until the rains come to release them from their shells." (from http://mama.essortment.com/lungfish_rank.htm)
5. "For hibernating the fish literally chews its way into the substrate ejecting mud out of its gill openings; it may reach a depth of 3-25 cm below the bottom depending on the length of the fish; the lungfish wriggles around, thereby hollowing out a bulb-shaped chamber and coming to rest with its nose pointing upward; they breathe air at the mouth of the chamber's tube and then sink back into the expanded part of the chamber. As the water disappears the respiratory trips cease; air reaches the fish via the tube to the surface." (from http://filaman.ifm-geomar.de/Summary/SpeciesSummary)
6. These websites also assure us that these species have been around for millions of years. I have read about these fish in textbooks that like to use their existence as proof of evolution.
7. When I see a creature this unique and amazing and so perfectly suited for its harsh, dry environment, I can't help but praise the Creator. Imagine a fish that can hibernate in mud and survive in a place where his watery environment completely dries up! I call that a creature created by a very creative Creator!