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The paddlefish, (Polyodon spathula,) became Missouri's official aquatic animal on May 23, 1997. Only three rivers in Missouri support substantial populations of the paddlefish; the Mississippi, Missouri and the Osage. They are also present in some of the state's larger lakes. The paddlefish is primitive, with a cartilage skeleton, rather than bone. They commonly exceed five feet in length and weights of 60 pounds; 20-year olds are common and some live 30 years or more. (RSMo 10.130)
The American paddlefish, Polyodon spathula, also called the Mississippi paddlefish or spoonbill, is a paddlefish living in slow-flowing waters of the Mississippi River drainage system. It appears to have been extirpated from Lake Erie and its tributaries. They are closely related to the sturgeons.
This large Chondrostean freshwater fish may grow to 220 cm (7 feet) and weigh up to 100 kg (220 pounds). The paddlefish takes its common and scientific names from its distinctive snout, which is greatly elongated and flattened into a paddle shape. The American paddlefish is believed to use sensitive electroreceptors on its paddle to detect prey, as well as to navigate while migrating to spawning sites. The American paddlefish feeds primarily on zooplankton but also feeds on crustaceans and bivalves. Polyodon spathula is one of two living species of Paddlefish; the other is the possibly extinct Chinese Paddlefish, Psephurus gladius.
Paddlefish are one of the largest,
native freshwater fishes in North America, attaining lengths of more than six feet (1.8 m) and weights of more than 100 pounds (45.5 kg). In South
Dakota, a paddlefish weighing more than 140 pounds (63.6 kg) was caught and released by South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks fisheries research biologists.
Paddlefish (also called spoonbill) are an ancient creature getting their name from the paddle-shaped rostrum or bill, that is often up to one-third
their entire body length. Paddlefish have a large, toothless mouth on the underside of their head and skin without scales, except for a patch near
the tail fin.
The tail is deeply forked with the upper lobe longer than the lower. Their skeleton is mostly cartilage, with the most bone-like material found in the head. Adult paddlefish have extremely small eyes in proportion to their body size. Paddlefish color varies from bluish-gray to almost black on their dorsal surface to white on their ventral side.
The law designating the paddlefish or spoonbill as the official Missouri state aquatic animal is found in the Missouri Revised Statutes, Title 2, Chapter 10, Section 10.130.
SOVEREIGNTY, JURISDICTION AND EMBLEMS
August 28, 2008
Paddlefish state aquatic animal.
10.130. The paddlefish or spoonbill, scientifically designated as Polyodon spathula, is hereby selected for, and shall be known as, the official aquatic animal of the state of Missouri.
(L. 1997 H.B. 700)
Taxonomic Hierarchy: Paddlefish or Spoonbill
Genus: Polyodon - Lacepede, 1797
Species: P. spathula