Polyodon spathula

About This Animal

SIZE: Over 7 feet and 150 pounds

RANGE: Historical range included the Mississippi River Basin and the Great Lakes

HABITAT: Rivers or reservoirs that have slow currents and high concentrations of zooplankton

DIET: Crustacean zooplankton

LIFESPAN: 56 years

ON EXHIBIT: Tennessee River Gallery, Nickajack Lake exhibit

About this animal: Paddlefishes are ancient animals, with fossils dating back to over 100 million years ago.  Because Paddlefish have a long lifespan, they do not reproduce until the males are 5-12 years old and the females are 6-19 years old.  Females can lay over one million eggs. Paddlefish migrate upstream to spawn, traveling up to 200 miles, with many returning to the same site where they previously spawned. Currently found in 22 states but populations have disappeared from the edge of its range and throughout the Great Lakes.

Threats: Habitat destruction, delayed reproduction, pollution, overfishing, dams

Our Impact: Scientists at the Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute (TNACI) just wrote a chapter on Paddlefish in the new version of the book North American Freshwater Fishes., which previously had not been updated since 1903.

Conservation Status: Listed by IUCN as Vulnerable and also listed as protected in 11 states which often means any sport or commercial fishery is closed.