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Each criterion has exceptions. Tuna, swordfish, and some species of sharks show some warm-blooded adaptations – they can heat their bodies significantly above ambient water temperature. Streamlining and swimming performance varies from fish such as tuna, salmon, and jacks that can cover 10–20 body-lengths per second to species such as eels and rays that swim no more than 0. 5 body-lengths per second. Many groups of freshwater fish extract oxygen from the air as well as from the water using a variety of different structures. Lungfish have paired lungs similar to those of tetrapods, gouramis have a structure called the labyrinth organ that performs a similar function, while many catfish, such as Corydoras extract oxygen via the intestine or stomach. Body shape and the arrangement of the fins is highly variable, covering such seemingly un-fishlike forms as seahorses, pufferfish, anglerfish, and gulpers. Similarly, the surface of the skin may be naked (as in moray eels), or covered with scales of a variety of different types usually defined as placoid (typical of sharks and rays), cosmoid (fossil lungfish and coelacanths), ganoid (various fossil fish but also living gars and bichirs), cycloid, and ctenoid (these last two are found on most bony fish). There are even fish that live mostly on land or lay their eggs on land near water. Mudskippers feed and interact with one another on mudflats and go underwater to hide in their burrows. A single, undescribed species of Phreatobius, has been called a true "land fish" as this worm-like catfish strictly lives among waterlogged leaf litter. Many species live in underground lakes, underground rivers or aquifers and are popularly known as cavefish.

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