Sunday Fish Sketch| Freshwater Elephantfish

This #SundayFishSketch comes from Ichthyologist, Rene Martin. Visit her shop on InPrint to see more of her artwork or to order prints!

Meet the Freshwater Elephantfish


Mormyridae is an African family of 200 or so species in the biological order Osteoglossiformes. Oddly enough, but fitting in line with the peculiar and weirdly specific nature of systematics, Osteoglossiformes means “bony tongue” in Greek, so you can probably safely assume that these fishes do indeed have bony tongues.

If you think that’s interesting, you may just be a nerd. Coincidentally, so are these fish! They are known for having oddly large brains and high intelligence. In fact, there brain/body ratio is similar to that of humans! Just another lesson in why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

The 200-ish species have extraordinary diversity, ranging in sizes between 2 inches and 5 feet.

Some other fun facts: the brain size is likely related to the fact that they have extraordinary bio-electric reception. This is because they tend to live in murky water and can only see red, so evolution had to throw them at least a bit of a bone. In fact, they generate an electrical field from specialized organs that they can use to better sense their environment. They are basically Matt Murdock. If you don’t know who that is, he’s Daredevil. If you don’t know who that is, we can’t be friends.

Also, they’ve only got one left gonad and tailless sperm. Odd, right?

So, there you have it. Elephantfish. Not elephants at all. Entirely fish. But definitely a bit elephanty in appearance. Sometimes.

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