Countless extraordinary species of fish live in Nigeria’s lakes, rivers, and coastal waters. However, some stand out for their size, shape, or bizarre attributes. From the largetooth sawfish to the spineback guitarfish, read on to discover 9 spectacular fish found in Nigeria!
1. Atlantic Sailfish
The Atlantic sailfish (Istiophorus albicans) is one of the many fish found in Nigeria. This marine species is remarkable for its broad dorsal fin, the “sail,” which extends like a boat sail along its back. As a billfish, it also bears a distinctive long, narrow, pointed nose (a bill or rostrum). This species swims at depths of up to 656 feet and is highly migratory. Because of this, it ranges widely throughout the Atlantic Ocean.
The Atlantic sailfish ranges from 47.6 to 57.5 inches long at maturity but grows to a maximum length of 124 inches. The weight of the heaviest recorded specimen was 128 pounds. Females grow larger than males. Its color ranges from metallic blue to grey with a pale underbelly.
2. Atlantic Blue Marlin
The Atlantic blue marlin (Makaira nigricans) is a sizable marine fish inhabiting the tropical and temperate waters of the Atlantic Ocean, including the coastal waters off Nigeria. Like the Atlantic sailfish, it is also a billfish and thus carries a long, pointed rostrum. This predatory species uses its bill to injure or stun prey, including other fish, octopus, and squid. It swims at depths of up to 3,280 feet.
The Atlantic blue marlin measures up to 197 inches in length or 16.4 feet with a maximum weight of 1,402 pounds. Females are larger than males. The dorsal region is bluish-black with a silvery-white underbelly.
The mahi-mahi (Coryphaena hippurus) also goes by “common dolphinfish.” Contrary to its name, it is not a dolphin but a ray-finned fish. It is native to the waters of the Atlantic Ocean off Nigeria’s coast. The name “mahi-mahi” is a Hawaiian duplicate word meaning “very strong.” Males of this species possess a prominent bony crest on their foreheads, while females’ heads are rounded.
Mahi-mahi are brilliantly colored while in the water, sporting metallic blue-green backs with silver and golden sides. However, their colors often change when exposed to the air. If they do not return to the water, they quickly fade to a dull greenish-grey or yellowish-grey. These fish grow to a maximum length of 82.7 inches with a maximum recorded weight of 88.2 pounds.
4. Shortfin Mako Shark
The shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) is a species of mackerel shark found off the coast of Nigeria in the Atlantic Ocean. This highly predatory shark feeds on other fish, including other sharks, cephalopods, and even small cetaceans. It is one of the fastest sharks in the world, if not the fastest, and can leap clear out of the water. It occasionally displays unprovoked aggression toward boats or swimmers.
The largest shortfin mako shark specimen on record grew to a length of 175.2 inches, which comes to 14.6 feet. The heaviest specimen on record weighed 1,115 pounds. These sharks have dark blue backs with white underbellies and cruise at depths of up to 2,460 feet.
5. Largetooth Sawfish
The largetooth sawfish (Pristis microdon) is a unique-looking fish found in Nigeria in the shallow coastal waters of the Atlantic as well as estuaries, river mouths, rivers, and lakes. This species of sawfish possesses a distinct saw-like rostrum (“saw”) jutting from its head, which is armed with teeth on both edges. It uses this saw to injure prey and detect their electric fields.
The biggest largetooth sawfish on record grew to a length of 275.6 inches, reaching nearly 23 feet. The heaviest recorded specimen weighed 1,323 pounds. Despite their massive size, these fish prefer shallow waters, rarely exceeding depths of 32.8 feet.
The wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri) is a predatory marine fish inhabiting the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Nigeria. This sleek fish has an elongated body with a large mouth and razor-sharp teeth. Sport fishers prize it for its incredible speed and tasty flesh. Its back is a striking iridescent bluish-green, while its sides are silver with dark blue vertical bars. Much like the mahi-mahi, its colors rapidly fade upon death.
The wahoo grows to a maximum length of 98.4 inches with a more common length of around 67 inches. The heaviest specimen on record weighed 183 pounds.
7. Bluntnose Flyingfish
One of the most fascinating fish found in Nigeria is the bluntnose flyingfish (Prognichthys gibbifrons), a species of flying fish native to the region. While in the water, it tends to remain near the surface, often launching itself into the air. Its specially adapted pectoral fins enable it to remain aloft for long distances. Contrary to appearances, these fish do not technically fly the way birds do; rather, they glide. Scientists speculate that they leave the water to avoid predators.
Though scientists once thought the bluntnose flyingfish roamed widely across the Atlantic, further studies have shown that it remains restricted to the western coast of tropical Africa. The largest individual on record measured 7.67 inches in length.
8. Giant Oarfish
The giant oarfish (Regalecus glesne), also known as the “king of herrings,” is an extremely elongated fish that looks somewhat like a giant eel. Guinness World Records recognizes this species as the longest bony fish in the world. Scientists captured the longest confirmed specimen in 1885, which measured 25 feet in length and weighed 600 pounds. Scientists in New Jersey spotted a much more recent, though unconfirmed, specimen in 1963 that may have been as long as 50 feet.
Giant oarfish frequently mutilate themselves by amputating sections of their posterior regions. This may occur in one individual several times over the course of their life. Scientists have also observed these fish positioning themselves vertically in the water with their heads pointed toward the surface. Scientists theorize that this may be a way of spotting prey against the light from above. Giant oarfish swim at depths of up to 3,280 feet, though they more commonly remain at depths between 65.6 and 656 feet.
9. Spineback Guitarfish
The spineback guitarfish (Rhinobatos irvinei) is a species of shovelnose ray native to the marine waters of Nigeria. Like other guitarfish, these fish have elongated bodies with “wings” and flat heads. Their name derives from their guitar-shaped heads. They prefer to remain near or on the ocean floor at depths of up to 160 feet.
The largest spineback guitarfish on record measured 39.37 inches, though a more common length is around 25.6 inches. The IUCN lists this species as Critically Endangered due to its decreasing and fragmented populations.
Besides these nine unusual fish found in Nigeria, the country has many other fascinating species. Find out more about Nigeria’s wildlife in this article.
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