Chinese paddlefish (Psephurus gladius)

Chinese Paddlefish (Psephurus gladius)
Chinese Paddlefish (Psephurus gladius)

Chinese Paddlefish (Psephurus gladius), also known as Chinese Swordfish, are among the largest freshwater fish. It is one of two extant paddlefish species, the other being the American Paddlefish. It is also called "elephant fish" because its snout resembles an elephant trunk. More poetically, it is sometimes referred to as the "Giant Panda of the Rivers", not because of any physical resemblance to a panda, but because of its rarity and protected status.

The Chinese Paddlefish is the People's Republic of China's first-level protected animal. Its belly is white and back and head grey. They live mostly in the middle or lower part of the Yangtze (Chang Jiang), occasionally in large lakes. They feed on other fish, with a small amount of crabs and crayfish. They are sexually mature at seven or eight, with a body length of 2 metres and a weight of 25 kilograms.

It is said that a zoologist recorded around the 1950s that some fishermen caught a paddlefish of 7-metres, although the authenticity of the story is unconfirmed. It is claimed that the Chinese paddlefish can grow to 23 feet and weigh 1,100 pounds, but little research on a maximum size can be conducted today due to the species' scarcity.

Due to overfishing, the Chinese Paddlefish is endangered now, and officially recognized by the People's Republic in 1983 to prevent fishing of paddlefish young or adults. Paddlefish are also threatened by dams (like the Three Gorges Dam), which divide the population into isolated groups. The fish are rarely seen, recently raising concerns that the species might already be extinct. However, a 3.6-meter, 250 kilogram specimen was killed by illegal fishing on January 8, 2007, in Jiayu County on the Yangtze River.

They were once given the scientific names of Polyodon gladius and Polyodon angustifolium.

Scientific classification

Links: Encyclopedia of Life | FAO Species Fact Sheet | Fishbase | ITIS | Pond Life

Common Names: Chinese Paddlefish, Chinese Swordfish, Sword Sturgeon