Re: NANFA-- more fish folklore

Christopher Scharpf (
Thu, 20 Dec 2001 15:34:04 -0400

> Farmers have plowed their fields where water has receded and have come upon
> bowfin who are dormant and can be revived.

The bowfin's ability to breathe air has led to claims that it can aestivate
like lungfishes when waters dry up, then come back to "life" after the next
substantial rainfall. Such claims are based on three anecdotal reports.

In Louisiana, live bowfins have reportedly been plowed up by farmers, weeks
after flood waters had fallen and "at a time when the drainage of the land
had so far progressed that cultivation was begun."

In Georgia, a bowfin was found alive in a "chamber" under four inches of
dried surface soil in an area that had been flooded by a river a quarter of
a mile away; the author said the "walls of the chamber were soft and moist"
and that he heard the bowfin "thumping" inside.

And in Alabama, a manmade pond that had been stocked with bowfin was drained
and remained dry for 21 days, during which seepage from other ponds kept the
bottom moist with no accumulation of water. When the pond was later refilled
and stocked with goldfish, 24 bowfin were found living in it, evidently
having survived the three weeks by burying into the pondıs moistened mud.

Laboratory experiments, however, have not been able to duplicate this 21-day
feat; one study indicates that northern, cold-adapted bowfins cannot survive
breathing atmospheric air for more than 3-5 days because they cannot
detoxify ammonia waste and lower their metabolism while out of the water.
The authors of this study did concede, however, that southern bowfin may be
capable of aestivation.

It would be interesting to see what would happen if someone were to recreate
the Alabama pond scenario under controlled experimental conditions.

Chris Scharpf

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