Some of the most interesting fish in the world live in muddy, disgusting waters or in the darkest depths of the open ocean. All those brightly coloured tropical fish that hang out around corals are pretty lame, if you ask me. So today I’m going to focus on a funny looking fish that lives in muddy rivers, Peters’ elephantnose fish.

The elephantnose fish lives in rivers in west and central Africa, preferring slow moving, muddy waters. The fish likes waters with areas of shelter, such as logs or low hanging branches. These are used by the elephantnose fish to hide in during the day. The main rivers it frequents are the lower Niger basin, the Ogun River basin and the upper Chari River. So if you’re in any of those places, go looking for elephantnose fish!

An elephantnose fish. As this picture shows, the lower jaw is modified into a sensory organ.
An elephantnose fish. As this picture shows, the lower jaw is modified into a sensory organ.

Peters’ elephantnose fish grow to 14 inches, and are dark brown or black. The most prominent feature is what gives the fish its name, and is an extension of the mouth that resembles the trunk of an elephant. This not only gives the fish a ridiculous look, but also helps the animal find prey. Elephantnose fish generate electrical discharges from their tail. The elephantnose’s body is covered in mucus, which helps generate a weak electrical field around the fish’s body. Any obstacles or fish that come close to the elephantnose fish change this electrical field with their own conductivity. These changes are picked up by electroreceptors that cover the elephantnose’s body, and are particularly plentiful on the elephantnose’s ‘trunk’.

Pretty neat, right? Apparently this type of sensory information is difficult to process, so the elephantnose fish has a particularly large brain to do so. In fact, the brain to body size ratio of this simple fish is similar to that found in primates. So there you have it, elephantnose fish are going to take over the world some day. And they’ll wreak vengeance on humankind for giving them such a stupid name.