With regards to aquatic creatures, sea creatures tend to ‘steal the show,’ as they say. To be fair, there are some really neat and quirky species that inhabit the oceans. Like this guy….
And this rarely seen shark…
Freshwater fishes, however, seem to get less attention despite containing a lot of neat variation, as well.
In Ohio, we have the super neat American paddlefish (Polyodon spathula).
The American paddlefish is made of cartilage and is known for its protruding, spatula-like snout. This snout is unique in that it is covered in electoreceptors, aiding in the capture of its prey (which consists of plankton). American paddlefish are scaleless and require slow moving water. A given female spawns every two to three years and averages 7,500 eggs/pound of her body weight.
That’s a lot of eggs.
Most likely you have not seen this quirky looking cartilaginous organism. The reason this species is not more well-known is most likely due to its low abundance. In fact, the American paddlefish is listed as threatened in Ohio. This is due to habitat alteration, pollution, and caviar-loving individuals (mmmm…nothing like some undeveloped paddlefish to go with my 1917 cabernet sauvignon).
Paddlefish used to be abundant throughout Ohio’s river systems and the Great Lakes. Shown below is an excerpt of a table found in a USGS report on fish abundance in the Great and Little Miami River Basins. Paddlefish, as seen in the table, were no longer sited in any of the three surveyed rivers after 1980. Scientists believe the increase in sediment and chemical compounds in the water due to urbanization and agricultural runoff greatly affected this species.
Now paddlefish are only seen in the Ohio river from about Portsmouth to Cincinnati.
So next time your annoying, perpetually vacationing friend tries to gloat about snorkeling with Angelfish, you can stun him/her with a photoshopped picture of you high-fiving an American paddlefish (because… why not?).
ODNR Division of Wildlife: http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/species-and-habitats/species-guide-index/fish/paddlefish
Ohio History Connection: http://www.ohiohistorycentral.org/w/Paddlefish
Ohio River Foundation: http://www.ohioriverfdn.org/about_the_river/ecology/paddlefish.html
Animal Diversity Web: http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Polyodon_spathula/#reproduction