Berkshire Community College's Environmental and Life Sciences program has a new resident: a young African lungfish.
The lungfish (Protopterus annectens), which arrived from a Californian breeder in mid-September, lives in an aquarium in the Ralph Hoffmann Environmental Science and Sustainable Energy Center.
Thomas Tyning, professor of Environmental Science, said the fish is under 2 years old. It can live more than 20 years, as proven by the previous lungfish living at BCC. That fish, donated by a student in 2001, died in 2019 and was memorialized by Tyning on the BCC website. “As a bona fide teaching member of our zoology classes, few animals were more iconic in helping students understand the evolution of vertebrates,” he said.
“It’s an incredible live example for our students, not to mention a great animal for display for visitors,” Tyning said in a statement. “Lungfish are living links between fish and terrestrial animals. They have both gills and lungs.” Of the six species of lungfish, “ours has the most unique fins of all of them,” he said, explaining that they are used somewhat like the legs of land animals. Along with another ancient fish, the coelacanth, lungfish are “clearly the earliest ancestors of all land-living animals, from salamanders to humans.”
Known only as fossils to Western science until the first living specimens were discovered in the 1830s, African lungfish have captivated scientists ever since, Tyning said, noting that there are still certain mysterious aspects about the fish — including no known way to determine its sex.