There are fish species that breathe air directly into their lungs, instead of filtering oxygen out of water with their gills. This evolutionary trait is due to low oxygen content in water, and it is most common in tropical, freshwater fish. Frequently they come from Africa, but can also be found in South America and Australia.
Species include the aptly named lungfish, bichirs, notopteridae (African Knife Fish, Clown Knife Fish), butterfly fish, weather loach, callichthyidae (armored catfish), loricariidae (plecostomus), and anabantoidae (labyrinth fish).
Labyrinth fish, such as the betta, the gourami, and some species of corydoras can breathe air.
They have a labyrinth organ that contains small mazes that are comprised of thin walls of cells, and the air can pass through these walls and mazes and into the blood.
I’m surprised that mudskippers haven’t been mentioned. They are probably the most famous amphibious fish. Mudskippers can breath in air, though not in exactly the same way as we breath. They absorb oxygen from the air through membranes in the back of their mouths. They can actually drown if held too long underwater.
Another fish that has defied logic and mystified biologists is the Mangrove Killifish, which can actually temporarily alter their biological makeup allowing them to breathe air while living outside of water for long periods of time. This fish, commonly found in the swamps of Florida, Latin America and the Caribbean, spends several months living inside of tree trunks. Additionally, the walking catfish found in South-east Asia is also capable of breathing in air.
The Mangrove Killifish actually spends several months a year outside water. The fish temporarily alters their gills to retain water and nutrients while they excrete nitrogen through their skin. The Mangrove Killifish is found in the mangrove swamps of Florida, Latin America, and the Caribbean.
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