The Chinese Paddlefish, Which Lived for 200 Million Years, Is Now Extinct
By Lily Katzman/Smithsonianmag.com
China’s Yangtze River, the world’s third longest river, is home to 378 known species of fish. But the Chinese paddlefish, once a common freshwater fish in the region, is no longer a member of this vast ecosystem. After over a decade of searching, researchers say the species completely disappeared between 2005 and 2010, with the last confirmed sighting in 2003.
According to a recent study in the journal Science of the Total Environment led by Hui Zhang of the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences in Wuhan, China, overfishing and dam construction drove the roughly 200-million-year-old species to extinction. “It’s very sad,” Zeb Hogan, a fish biologist at the University of Nevada, Reno, tells Douglas Main of National Geographic. “It’s a definitive loss of a very unique and extraordinary animal, with no hope of recovery.”
The Chinese paddlefish (Psephurus gladius), also known as the Chinese swordfish and sometimes called the “panda of the Yangtze,” was one of the world’s largest freshwater fish species. It could grow as long as 23 feet (7 meters) and weigh up to 992 pounds (450 kilograms), Eric Cheung reports for CNN. Only a few freshwater fish can grow bigger, such as the Mekong giant catfish, sturgeon and alligator gar.