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Bony tongues are called that because most of their teeth are on the tongue and the roof of the mouth. They are odd-looking fishes. The head structure varies according to the way the different types of bony tongues feed. The tail fins of bony tongues have fewer rays, or supporting rods, than the tails of other fishes. Some bony tongues have long heads, and some have trunklike snouts, or nose areas. Bony tongues are 1.6 inches to 5 feet (4 centimeters to 1.5 meters) long.
Bony tongues and their relatives live in tropical Africa; India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam; South America; New Guinea and Australia; and North America.
Many bony tongues and their relatives live near the surface of slow-moving rivers and lakes or ones that are stagnant, or still and stale. Some live at all depths in large rivers and lakes. Others prefer habitats with dense, or thick, plant life. Some bony tongues live in muddy water, sometimes in swift currents.
Bony tongues and their relatives eat plankton, that is, microscopic plants and animals drifting in the water; insect adults and larvae (LAR-vee), or young insects in the early stage of growth before becoming adults; crustaceans (krus-TAY-shuns), or shelled animals with jointed legs, such as shrimp; earthworms; snails; and other fish. Some even eat frogs and mice. Some bony tongues feed at the water surface, at middle depths, and others are bottom feeders. The bony tongues with long snouts find their prey in holes and crevices (KREH-vuh-suhz).
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