The bowfin species make up the order Amiiformes and are primitive ray-finned fishes. An interesting thing with this order is that only one single species have survived into our time. This bowfin species is named Amia calva and belong to the family Amiidae. The rest of the species have only been found in fossils dating back to the Eocene, Cretaceous and Jurassic eras. These extinct bowfin species belong to six different families within the order Amiiformes. Millions of years ago, bowfin fish could be found in most parts of the world, but Amia calvais only found in the eastern regions of the North American continent.
One of the most prominent characteristics of the bowfin fish is an exceptionally long dorsal fin. This long dorsal fin is made up by 45-50 rays and will run all the way from the base of the tail to the mid-back of the main body. A bowfin fish can reach a length of 1 meter and weigh up to 7 kg. The head is comparatively large and is equipped with two barbells. The caudal fin is single lobed and looks almost circular. You will often find a dark spot at the base of the tail, close to the dorsal edge.
You will typically find Amia calva bowfin fish in slowly moving backwaters where oxygen is scarce. Geographically, the distribution of Amia calva bowfin fish is limited to North America. You will find bowfin fish in most parts of the Mississippi basin, along the Gulf Coast, and at the Florida peninsula. The population will also extend northwards along the Atlantic coast up to the Delaware River (the New Jersey section). The Amia calva bowfin fish is active during the night when it feeds on both vertebrates and invertebrates, such as fish, frogs, crayfish and insects
Like many other fish species that live in low-oxygen waters, the bowfin fish have adapted to these conditions and can breathe oxygen directly from the air by swimming up to the surface. Unlike land living animals, the bowfin fish gulps air into the swim bladder. This organ is lined with blood vessels which can absorb the oxygen.
The Amia calva bowfin fish has been recently introduced to the Connecticut River drainage of Massachusetts. In the 1980’s, bowfin fish was found in the Lower Mill Pond and the Nashawannuck Pond in Easthampton, Massachusetts. Most scientists agree that some of these bowfin fishes later migrated down the Mahan River until they reached the Oxbow in the Connecticut River. During the 1980’s, bowfin fish was occasionally found in the Oxbow. During the summer of 1987, an adult bowfin fish was found at the southern end of Second Island in the Connecticut River, Massachusetts. As of 2006, no bowfin has been found north of this point in the Connecticut River.
The Amia calva bowfin spawns in spring and prefers weed beds as breeding grounds. The male bowfin will create a round nest in fibrous root mats. He will remove leaves and stems and the completed nest can be anywhere from 15 inches to 3 feet across. The male bowfin can spawn with up to three female bowfins. He guards his offspring and care for them until they are roughly 4 inches long. The eggs will hatch after 8-10 days and the small bowfins will form a school and follow their father.
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