Vundu

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Vundu
Temporal range: Lower Pliocene - Recent
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Actinopterygii
Order:Siluriformes
Family:Clariidae
Genus:Heterobranchus
Species:H. longifilis
Binomial name
Heterobranchus longifilis
Valenciennes, 1840[1]
 
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Vundu
Temporal range: Lower Pliocene - Recent
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Actinopterygii
Order:Siluriformes
Family:Clariidae
Genus:Heterobranchus
Species:H. longifilis
Binomial name
Heterobranchus longifilis
Valenciennes, 1840[1]

The vundu (Heterobranchus longifilis) is a species of airbreathing catfish found in the African countries of Niger, Senegal, Egypt, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Zambia. It is also called the solomon fish, tsuni, mazunda, sampa, cur, lenda, or certa.[2]

Description[edit]

The vundu is the largest freshwater species in southern Africa, reaching up to 150 cm in length. The maximum recorded weight is 55.0 kg.[1] Few other catfish have such large second dorsal (adipose) fins or such long barbels as do the Vundu. Its barbels nearly reach to the origin of the pelvic fin. The colour of Heterobranchus longifilis is light to dark olive brown on its dorsal surface, getting lighter over the mid-body to a light brown. Its belly is off-white. Fins are usually light brown.[3] Some have claimed this animal to grow up to 15 feet long, and appear to be 300 pounds.

With its serpent-like body, it can charge with powerful bursts of speed, and is strong enough to pull a man down to the bottom of the river.

Habitat and range[edit]

The habitat of the vundu is deep lakes and rivers including the Nile, Benue Rivers as well as in the Congo system. Heterobranchus longifilis is also found in Lake Kariba Zambezi, Tanganyika and Edward.

H. longifilis is an uncommon species which inhabits large rivers. Most active at night, it feeds on any available food, including invertebrates and insects when small, then fish and other small vertebrates when large. It scavenges off large carcasses and offal from riverside villages. It can live for 12 or more years.[4] The vundu catfish can survive out of water for extensive periods of time.[5]

Relationship with humans[edit]

Fishing Deaths[edit]

Many tourists and locals who fish for small species of fish often come across the large predatory catfish and drown because of the methods used to catch smaller fish. It involves pulling the fish out of the water with a fishing line, using your bare hands. A vundu could easily overpower a person and pull them in the water and drown them, especially in cases where people don't want to lose their catch and tie the fishing line around their body, which is a huge mistake, and ultimately backfires. Also, longlines equipped with multiple hooks are hazardous as if a large vundu is on the end of the line, one of the hooks in the boat can stick in you and if the vundu then pulls, you can be pulled in the water.

Attacks[edit]

Vundu are also accused by locals of snatching babies from the banks of rivers and swallowing them whole while the parents wash clothes. This can be attributed to the catfish's barbels which allow it to detect chemical traces of its prey. The scent of the soap used to wash the clothes is detected by the catfish which then lures it in to search for the prey and ultimately it goes for the only thing it can swallow if big enough: a child. Soap-baited techniques are used in other parts of Africa to catch other species of catfish such as the African sharptooth catfish in which its barbels also allow it to pick up chemical traces of its prey and the soap lures them in.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Fishbase.org". Retrieved 5 May 2010. 
  2. ^ "Animal.discovery.com". Retrieved 5 May 2010. 
  3. ^ "Catfish1.com". Retrieved 5 May 2010. 
  4. ^ Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2011). "Heterobranchus longifilis" in FishBase. December 2011 version.
  5. ^ Catfish1.com

Further reading[edit]