A couple of years ago I wrote about the extinction of the Baiji — or Yangtze River Dolphin — and now, as the BBC reports, it looks like another large inhabitant of the Yangtze is on the verge of following it, if it hasn’t already done so.
One of only two extant species of Paddlefish, the Chinese Paddlefish (Psephurus gladius,) which, with reported sizes up to 7m long, may also be the world’s largest freshwater fish1 has not been detected at all on a recent survey. The team do admit that it’s quite possible for isolated individuals to have escaped detection due to the sheer size of the area surveyed, but point out that the environment can no longer support a viable breeding population, and that unless some specimens can be caught in time to begin a captive conservation programme the species is doomed.
It’s depressing to be writing about the extinction of another large, ecologically important species so soon after the Baiji — doubly so since it was native to the same river system — and it’s no comfort at all to know that there will have been plenty of other, less-visible (but no less tragic) extinctions in the same period, or that this is unlikely to be the last.
- it is currently not clear — and now may never be — whether the animal spends it’s entire life in fresh water [↩]