Native to freshwater African riverbanks, bichirs are famous for their strong fins and lungs, allowing them to “walk” and breathe out of water. But the serpentine fish prefer aquatic habitats, and tend only to travel on land when they must.
For a new study published in Nature, researchers from the University of Ottawa and McGill University decided to find out what would happen if they raised bichirs entirely in terrestrial environments for eight months. They hoped to learn more about the transition of sea animals to land some 400 million years ago, an evolutionary turning point that bichirs may be uniquely poised to help us understand.
The team was surprised to find that the fish not only survived, but seemed to adapt and thrive in their new homes. As explored in the Nature-produced video above, the land-dwelling bichirs provided an exciting snapshot of a crucial moment in the evolutionary record.