Cobras, cats, and vultures are among the most popular animals depicted in ancient Egyptian art, but the humble catfish once dominated the iconography of the civilization by the Nile. Common to every continent except Antarctica, catfish are the most diverse group of fish on earth. The 2,000 to 3,000 species have some remarkable characteristics, so it is little wonder they attracted the attention of the Egyptians, one of the most animal-conscious ancient cultures.
Named for its feline-like whiskers, called barbels, a catfish has finely honed senses that allow it to survive and find food in murky, muddy waters. One family of catfish has a respiratory system that allows it to use atmospheric oxygen. This is most spectacularly employed by the walking catfish (Clarias batrachus), familiar today as an invasive species in Florida, which uses its fins to waddle over land.