CLASS: Actinopterygii
ORDER: Acipenseriformes
FAMILY: Polyodontidae
GENUS: Polyodon
SPECIES:P. spathula

habitat & Range

Paddlefish inhabit large, deep rivers with slow currents and require sand or gravel substrate onto which their eggs will adhere.

Did you know?

  • Paddlefish were originally thought to be a species of shark when they were discovered in 1792.
  • Like sharks, paddlefish utilize electroreception to locate food (zooplankton in this case).
  • Paddlefish make large migrations in the Mississippi River to breeding grounds every two to three years.
  • These fish will often swim with their mouths wide open to allow them to filter feed and so water can flow over the gills.
North American River Otter

Form & Function

These are large fishes with a unique elongate and flattened snout that is covered with electroreceptors. Their vertebral column extends into the upper lobe of the caudal fin and their skeleton is made of cartilage; two characteristics that they share with sharks. They have large mouths for filter-feeding and are counter-shaded with a brown dorsal surface and white belly.

Conservation & YOu

IUCN lists the paddlefish as vulnerable mainly due to habitat concerns. The loss of sand or gravel substrate in rivers could reduce survival of offspring. Paddlefish are also sometimes collected for their eggs (roe), although this is illegal. You can help by following your state’s fishing laws and regulations and avoiding consumption of roe.
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