A Freshwater Giant Is Now Extinct

The Chinese paddlefish is shown in this undated file

The Chinese paddlefish is shown in this undated file

The species managed to survive for at least 150 million years before being declared extinct, researchers note.

China had faced criticism in 2007 for allowing a new dam to be built of the Yangtze River, despite concerns that it might threaten the Chinese paddlefish and the Yangtze River dolphin, another critically endangered species.

Fish expert Zeb Hogan told National Geographic Wednesday that there is "no hope of recovery" for the paddlefish, and the "definitive loss of a very unique and extraordinary animal" is "very sad".

Chinese internet users and media outlets have been paying tribute to the hefty creature, whose sharp, protruding snout made it one of the largest freshwater species in the world.

Users on Weibo expressed the wish that a Chinese paddlefish might still resurface in the river. "Hence, when it died out in the wild, the species has become completely extinct". They have lived since the Lower Jurassic period, reports Cheung, but remained largely unchanged over their 200-million-year existence. China listed the fish as a nationally protected animal in the 1980s, but the IUCN said the construction of dams on the Yangtze River continued to block its migration route and prevented it from breeding in the upper reaches of the river. The field studies involved trying to catch the fish themselves as well as canvassing fish markets, but they neither caught any Chinese paddlefish nor saw any in the markets. The researchers think that the fish became functionally extinct sometime in 1993 and estimated the complete extinction to have occurred sometime between 2005-2010 in the Yangtze river system.

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But the freshwater species was not gone for good. By 1995, only a few of the species were observed.

Researchers declared the Chinese paddlefish as extinct, over a decade after the last known sightings of the species. The signal, however, was lost after the fish's release. The team didn't find another 140 species from the sampled ecosystems either, most of which are considered at risk of extinction.

To try and combat the issue of these extinctions, China announced a 10-year fishing ban in certain areas of the river to protect the area's biodiversity.

"Every time I see the news of another species going extinct, my heart starts to throb", wrote one science blogger.

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