Upper Eocene and lower Oligocene deposits of the Jebel Qatrani Formation, Fayum Depression, Egypt, have provided a number of skulls and other bones that belong to a species of snakehead (Channidae). This material is morphologically more similar to species of Parachanna, rather than species of Channa, and is here described as a new species, Parachanna fayumensis. It differs from the other species of the genus in possessing a prominent tooth patch on the posterior end of the parasphenoid.
This new species of channid is the oldest member of the family known from Africa. Prior to this record, the oldest African fossil channid material was found in Mio–Pliocene deposits. This lack of information on the African fossil record leads to biogeographic reconstructions in which channids were believed to have arisen in Asia and invaded Africa through fresh waters, only after the two continents were connected in the Miocene. The Egyptian material shows that channids were in the fresh waters of Africa in the latest Eocene. Either a freshwater connection existed between Africa and Asia before or during the late Eocene, or members of the Channidae were able to migrate through marine waters to attain their current distribution.