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Bichirs, also known as dinosaur eels, are primitive fish from the rivers and lakes of Africa. There are currently eighteen species and subspecies recognised, including Erpetoichthys calabaricus, better known as the Ropefish or Reedfish. All the other species belong to the genus Polypterus
Bichirs are very distinctive. They have long, thin bodies, like an eel, but with heavy armour plating similar to that seen on gars. Along the back is a series of a dozen or more small flag-like dorsal fins. The pectoral fins extend from muscular lobes, a bit like stubby arms, and bichirs will indeed prop themselves up on their pectoral fins when resting on the substrate. Their jaws are very simple and more like those of amphibians than bony fish. Internally they are just as unusual. They have paired lungs like those of lungfish, but they have a spiral valve at the end of the digestive tract more like those seen in sharks.


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