Paddlefish Reintroduced to Texas' Caddo Lake
| November 14, 2017
By Eva Frederick, TP&W
Paddlefish, the oldest animal species in North America, return to Caddo.

During the Carboniferous Period, much of North America was underwater, and the parts that remained above the ocean were lush with swampy forest.

A lot has changed in the past 300 million years — coastlines receded, dinosaurs emerged and disappeared, and human civilization covered the earth — but one ancient fish species has stuck around to watch it all happen.

With a snout like a long, flat spatula and an often-open mouth, the American paddlefish is a distinctive-looking resident of Texas rivers and reservoirs. Its namesake "paddle" is about one-third of the length of the fish's entire body and is covered in tiny electroreceptors that help the fish find the best areas of water with snackable microscopic organisms.

These chubby, cartilaginous fish dine on tiny plankton and have no teeth at all. To feed, they swim around with their mouths gaping wide, taking in large volumes of water and filtering it out through their gills, which are equipped with comb-like rakes to catch the plankton. This method of open-mouthed feeding lends them a permanently surprised look.


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