Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mekong Giant Catfish

So now we move from a tiny little frog to the largest freshwater fish in existence, Pangasianodon gigas. In 2005, the largest specimen ever recorded was caught in northern Thailand. It was nine feet long and weighed nearly 650lbs. Unfortunately though, she died before being re-released. Anyways, so while one of these dudes could probably swallow a small child with ease, they eat primarily algae that they find on rocks on the bottom of the river, though when they are youngin's they have cannibalistic tendencies! But I think I'm going to stamp herbivore on this one, since after their first year (they can live to be 60!) they exclusively eat plant-type materials. Oh the complications of classification systems. I do not envy taxonomists one bit.

But back to the fish! They are endangered, primarily due to habitat changes (damn those dams!) and overfishing. It is currently illegal to harvest them in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. However, the river is gigantic and is home to many small villages that are nearly impossible to enforce fishing bans on. Catfish in general are also a major food source to these populations, and are believed to cause good luck.

Projects have be implemented by a number of organizations to save these monster fishes, but due to the elusive nature of the animal (only a few have been captured since 2000), and the large migratory distances it embarks on, spawning sites have never been found, and the exact number remaining in the wild is unknown. Estimates state that the number has declined by 90% in the past 20 years.

Anyway, for more information check out this really great video from National Geographic.

image from

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