Polypterus identification superthread

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Hendre

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Introduction
Polypterus are a group of prehistoric, armoured fish living in the Northern regions of Africa and are popular aquarium residents due to their ancient morphology and relaxed demeanour. Unfortunately their taxonomy is in constant flux with several species being described recently and many more subspecies or variants recognised in the hobby.This thread is an amalgamation of important infomation from previous sticky threads to highlight currently recognised species and how to distinguish between them through a combination of visual cues and morphological traits. Hopefully this thread will aid with identifying your bichir or perhaps help you choose which one you want next ;)

Index to posts
  • Appendix 1: Infographics by Joshua picket - Post #2
  • Appendix 2: Visual guide to endlicheri and lapradei morphs/variants by XRAYZ - Post #3
  • Appendix 3: Lateral line scale counts by tokyogasmask - Post #4
  • Appendix 4: Visual guide to upper jaw species by BeBlondie - Post #5
    • Polypterus ornatipinnis - Post #6
    • Polypterus delhezi - Post #7
    • Polypterus weeksii - Post #8
    • Polypterus mokelembembe - Post #9
    • Polypterus retropinnis - Post #10
    • Polypterus teugelsi - Post #11
    • Polypterus senegalus senegalus - Post #12
    • Polypterus senegalus meridionalis - Post #13
    • Polypterus palmas buettikoferi - Post #14
    • Polypterus palmas palmas - Post #15
    • Polypterus polli - Post #16
Original threads
All Bichir (Polypterus) Species - Updated - link
endli and lap variants with pics - link
Lateral Line Scale Count - link
A visual reference to Polypterid species - link
 
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Appendix 1: Infographics



In 2010 there were some changes to Bichir literature not many people have been aware of.
The following are described species only.

The giant variant of P. senegalus has now been described as a new species, a subspecies to P. senegalus, forming the Senegalus complex. Both are now:
Polypterus senegalus senegalus,
P. senegalus meridionales.


Polypterus palmas polli
is no longer a member of the Palmas complex and is now known as just
Polypterus polli.

Polypterus endlicheri congicus
was found to be a closer relative to P. bichir bichir and P. bichir lapradei and is no longer an Endlicheri subspecies disbanding the Endlicheri complex. They are now both known as just:
Polypterus endlicheri,
P. congicus.


P. delhezi is a transitional species between upper and lower jaw.

P. mokelembembe is the "sister species" to all living Bichirs.

Most of the journals which published these changes are open access, although some are closed access and have to be requested by emailing the researchers.
Here is one study: http://bmcevolbiol.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2148-10-21

Here are the factsheets below acknowledging these changes, please download and spread the message. Hopefully it'll reach some of the online websites such as FishBase and SeriouslyFish, so they can update. :)

Here is the video alternative to the factsheets:

Sizes and finlets too have been updated, I've noticed some websites still report P. ansorgii to max at 10 inches. We now know they can get 4 times that size.

1586808089239.png
1586808176526.png
1586808214487.png


Credit and reference
Original author: Josh's Fish Josh's Fish
Original thread: https://www.monsterfishkeepers.com/forums/threads/all-bichir-polypterus-species-updated.684410/
 

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Appendix 2: Visual guide to endlicheri and lapradei morphs/variants

Disclaimer: As mentioned in the original thread, colours and patterns of each variant may vary depending on factors such as substrate. This information is also from 2007, so will probably differ slightly today.

Polypterus lapradei


lap014var.JPG




lap020var.JPG




lap025var.JPG




reg04var.JPG




reg08var.JPG




reg09var.JPG




koliba07var.JPG




koliba09var.JPG




koliba015var.JPG


Polypterus endlicheri

endi023var.JPG




endi025var.JPG




nig01var.JPG




nig07var.JPG



Credit and reference:

Original author: @XRAYZ
Original thread can be found here with more examples
 

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Appendix 3: Lateral line scale counts

Thread summary:
According to Japanese ancient fish Scientist Dr Igarashi there is a distinct difference in the Lateral line scale count (llsc) between Polypterus bichir bichir and Polypterus ansorgii. P ansorgii should have a llsc in the range of 50-62 scales whereas P bichir bichir should have a llsc in the range of 63-75 scales. The count will vary between regional variants but will rarely if ever overlap.

Some examples:

Polypterus bichir bichir
1586807517899.png

Wild caught Polypterus ansorgii
1586807693509.png

Big-in "special"
1586807739657.png

Credit and reference:
Original author: T tokyogasmask
Original thread can be found here
 
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Appendix 4: Visual guide to upper jaw species

Thread summary:
The following posts will outline the morphology of the upper-jaw Polypterus species, joined with a photo for visual reference.

Note: Some of these species are under taxonomic revision so this list is subject to change

Index of species:
  1. Polypterus ornatipinnis
  2. Polypterus delhezi
  3. Polypterus weeksii
  4. Polypterus mokelembembe
  5. Polypterus retropinnis
  6. Polypterus teugelsi
  7. Polypterus senegalus senegalus
  8. Polypterus senegalus meridionalis
  9. Polypterus palmas buettikoferi
  10. Polypterus palmas palmas
  11. Polypterus polli
Credit and reference:
Original author: beblondie beblondie
Original post can be found here
 
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Polypterus ornatipinnis

Pronunciation
Po-lyp-ter-us or-nate-eh-pin-nis

Location
Congo river basin, Lake Rukwa drainage and Lake Tanganyika

Morphology
  • Dorsal spines (total): 9 - 11
  • Anal spines: 14-15
  • Subcylindrical body
  • Upper and lower jaw of equal length
  • Number of dorsal finlets: 9-11
  • Dorsal fin origin well behind pectoral fin
  • Ganoid scales
  • lateral line scales: 58-65
  • 38-44 scales around body
  • 22-27 predorsal scales
  • Dorsal side grey-brown colored, marbled with clear whitish spots , the belly is white to yellowish
  • Head finely reticulated
  • Fins with white spots alternating with dark spots, forming a continuous bar
Photo
1586811000861.png
 

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Polypterus delhezi

Pronunciation
Po-lyp-ter-us del-he-zi

Location
Central basin of Congo river

Morphology
  • Dorsal spines (total): 10 - 13
  • Anal spines: 0;
  • Anal soft rays: 11-14
  • Subcylindrical body
  • Upper and lower jaws reaching to the same level, or the lower jaw is a little shorter
  • Number of dorsal finlets: 10-13
  • Pectoral fin not reaching dorsal fin origin
  • Ganoid scales
  • 52-58 lateral line scales
  • 36-40 scales around body
  • 12-17 predorsal scales
  • Dorsal side gray-olive colored, with 7 to 8 black transversal bars
  • ventral side yellowish, lighter on ventral side of head
  • Spots are forming a black line between the lips and suboperculum
  • Fins yellow with brown or black spots

Photo
1586811234058.png
 

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Polypterus weeksi

Pronunciation
Po-lyp-ter-us weeks-ee-i

Location
Central basin of the Congo river

Morphology
  • Dorsal spines (total): 9 - 11​
  • Anal spines: 10-14​
  • Body more or less compressed​
  • Body depth 6.5 to 9.5 times in standard length​
  • Head length 4.25 to 5.5 times in standard length​
  • Upper jaw slightly prominent or of equal length with lower jaw​
  • Number of dorsal finlets: 9-11​
  • Number of branched dorsal and caudal rays: 15​
  • Pectoral fin not reaching dorsal fin origin​
  • Ganoid scales​
  • 57-65 lateral line scales​
  • 44-48 scales around body​
  • 20-26 predorsal scales​
  • Dorsal side olive-green to gray colored​
  • ventral side yellowish​
  • 7 or 8 blackish bars bifurcating on the lower parts of the flanks​
  • Fins are spotted, marbled, or irregularly barred with black​

Photo
1586811497680.png
 

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Polypterus mokelembembe

Pronunciation
Po-lyp-ter-us moe-kay-lee-em-bem-bee

Location
Central basin of the Congo river

Morphology
  • Dorsal spines (total): 6-8
  • Dorsal soft rays (total): 0
  • Subcylindrical and elongate body, becoming increasingly laterally comressed over its caudal third
  • Head is slighlty flattened dorsoventrally; mouth terminal; lips fleshy; snout comparatively acute
  • Internostril distance 11.6-13.7% of head length
  • Number of dorsal finlets: 6-8
  • Wide first dorsal-fin spine, 6.4-8.1% of head length
  • Pectoral fins broadly rounded, almost circular, not reaching level of first dorsal spine
  • Ganoid scales
  • 57-60 lateral-line scales
  • 32-38 scales around body
  • 32-37 predorsal scales
  • 42-47 prepelvic scales
  • Visible part of body scales approximately square on flanks and rhomboid on caudal peduncle
  • Slightly elongated lateral-line pores are located on atnerior portion of each scale in the first half and in the central part of the second half of lateral line In preserved specimens
  • Dorsal two thirds of body dark grey overall, with several broad and ill-defined dark grey to black bands and blotches;
  • Dark blotches and bands may converge on dorsal third of body to form braod saddles on anterior half of body in front of first finlet
  • No abrupt transition between the dark dorso-lateral body coloration and the light beige ventral coloration
  • A single large black blotch on pectoral fin base


Photo
1586812117663.png
 

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Polypterus retropinnis

Pronunciation
Po-lyp-ter-us retro-pin-is

Location
Central Congo River basin and Ogooué River in Africa

Morphology
Dorsal spines (total): 7 - 9
Anal spines: 12-15
Vertebrae: 57-58
Subcylindrical body
Jaws mostly about the same length, the upper jaw sometimes a little longer than lower jaw
Internostril distance 14.3-18.0% of head length
Predorsal length 55.7-63.2% of SL
Number of dorsal finlets: 7-9
First dorsal spine narrow, 4.6-6.1% of head length
Number of dorsal and caudal rays: 13-16
Pectoral fin not reaching dorsal fin origin
Ganoid scale
56-58 lateral line scales
30-38 scales around body
26-34 predorsal scales
40-46 prepelvic scales
Dorsal surface of the body is gray or brown colored, well separated from the ventral surface, which is yellowish Reticulated pattern on dorsal side with olive-colored spots
Lower jaw with black spots, which separates it from Polypterus palmas
The pectoral fin, yellow at its base, with a black spot on the distal side
Other fins have brown spots

Photo
1586851679759.png
 
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