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Parachanna africana (Steindachner, 1879)
Niger Snakehead

Parachanna africana - Niger Snakehead - click to enlarge

After Boulenger, 1916

Original description: Ophiocephalus africanus Steindachner 1879:31. Uber einige neue und seltene Fischarten aus den zoologischen Museen zu Wien, Stuttgart und Warschau. Anz. Akad. Wiss. Wien. 16(4):29-34. Type locality: Lagos, Nigeria. Holotype: SMNS (no number provided).

Synonyms: Channa africanus (Steindachner, 1879).
                   Parophiocephalus africanus (Steindachner, 1879).

Common names: Niger snakehead; African snakehead.

         Native range: Southern Benin to southern Nigeria, primarily the Oueme River and Niger basin (Bonou and Teugels, 1985; Skelton, 1988).

         Introduced range: Introductions unknown.

         Size: To 32 cm.

         Habitat preference: Bonou and Teugels (1985) noted that there was little known of the biology of this snakehead. Daget and Iltis (1965) considered this species as a Guinean form that occupied waters in forested areas. Teugels and others (1992) commented that this species is limited to coastal sections of rivers.

         Temperature range: No specific information. Nevertheless, the native range is equatorial, indicating a strictly tropical species.

         Reproductive habits: No specific information located. Likely a nest builder that provides parental protection to young like other snakeheads.

         Feeding habits: No specific information. In considering this species as a game fish, Copley (1952) remarked that it ate frogs and worms, as well as fishes. Probably a thrust predator like other channid fishes.

         Characters: Patch of scales present in gular region. No canines on prevomer or palatines. Transverse scales 19-24; lateral line scales 73-83. Dorsal rays 45-48; anal rays 32-35. Head slightly depressed anteriorly and covered with large scales. Lower jaw slightly longer than upper jaw with 3 to 4 large canine teeth. Coloration distinct among African snakeheads in having a series of forward-pointing chevrons on the side of the body posterior to the pectoral fins that extend upward to the base of the dorsal fin (Bonou and Teugels, 1985).

         Commercial importance in the United States: Sometimes listed on aquarist-oriented websites and has been periodically sold through aquarium fish retailers. Unknown in live-food fish markets.

         Commercial importance in native range: Unknown, but probably available in live-food fish markets.

         Environmental concerns: Likely a thrust predator. Native range is equatorial indicating that if introduced this species would be restricted to tropical/subtropical waters.

Distribution of Parachanna africana - click to enlarge


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