Order CERATODONTIFORMES (Lungfishes)

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v. 1.0 – 30 Aug. 2016  view/download PDF

ceratos, horn; odontos, tooth, referring to prominent, shark-like tooth plates of Ceratodus Agassiz 1838, a cosmopolitan genus of Triassic lungfishes

3 extant families · 3 genera · 9 species/subspecies

Family NEOCERATODONTIDAE Australian Lungfish

Neoceratodus Castelnau 1876    neo-, new; Ceratodus, genus in which N. forsteri had been described (but now restricted to Triassic lungfishes)

Neoceratodus forsteri (Krefft 1870)    in honor of (and “in justice to”) friend and politician William Forster (1818-1882), Minister of Lands, New South Wales, who presented two specimens of this “great amphibian” to the Australian Museum; the “in justice” comment reflects Krefft’s amends for doubting his longtime friend, who owned large tracts of land near the type locality in Queensland and had tantalized Krefft with tales of a “fish” with a cartilaginous backbone [note: despite Krefft’s claim, Forster did not discover this lungfish (which had been known and eaten by local squatters for decades), nor did he collect the type specimens (now lost); Forster’s cousin, William McCord, an amateur naturalist, provided them, salted and without entrails]


Family LEPIDOSIRENIDAE South American Lungfish

Lepidosiren Fitzinger 1837    lepido-, scaled; siren, an aquatic salamander, derived from seiren, a mythological snake with wings, possibly referring to the serpentine shape of aquatic salamanders and their wing-like external gills; Fitzinger considered the lungfish a reptile (which at the time included amphibians) intermediate between the salamander genus Amphiuma and the eel (Muraena), but with scales

Lepidosiren paradoxa Fitzinger 1837    strange or contrary to expectation, referring to the seeming paradox of an eel-like salamander covered with scales yet resembling a fish


Family PROTOPTERIDAE African Lungfishes

Protopterus Owen 1839    protos, first; pterus, fin, referring to rudimentary or embryonic condition of its fins

Protopterus aethiopicus aethiopicus Heckel 1851    –icus, belonging to: Aethiopia, classical Greek term for the upper Nile region, where it occurs

Protopterus aethiopicus congicus Poll 1961    –icus, belonging to: referring to its occurrence in the middle and upper Congo River

Protopterus aethiopicus mesmaekersi Poll 1961    in honor of Is. Mesmaekers, commander of the port of Boma (Democratic Republic of the Congo), for facilitating the shipment of lungfish specimens and their mucus cocoons

Protopterus amphibius (Peters 1844)    amphi-, double; bios, life, i.e., living a double life, allusion not explained, perhaps reflecting the belief at the time that lungfishes were amphibians, and/or to the fact that this species lives in water during the rainy season and in a “sheath of leaves” (translation) during the dry season

Protopterus annectens annectens (Owen 1839)    linking or joining, presumed to be a connecting link between cartilaginous and “Malacopterygian” (soft-finned) fishes, e.g., Polypterus (bichirs) and Lepisosteus (gars)

Protopterus annectens brieni Poll 1961    in honor of friend and zoological colleague Paul Brien, who studied the ecology and reproductive biology of P. dolloi, and who collected some of the type material

Protopterus dolloi Boulenger 1900    in honor of Belgian paleontologist Louis Dollo (1857-1931), whose 1895 appraisal of lungfish phylogeny interpreted their evolution in ecological terms (as a specialization for living in oxygen-poor water), and hypothesized that they evolved from Devonian “crossopterygians” (primitive lobe-finned bony fishes believed to be the forerunner to four-legged vertebrates, or tetrapods)