August 12, 2006

Thing 1 and Thing 2

Like most of you, when the weather gets really hot, I like to throw on some scuba gear and go sit on the bottom of the Mississippi.

Here's a couple things that swam by recently. Know what they are?

No readers correctly guessed the identity of the fish in the top photo.
It's a spoonbill or paddlefish, a remarkable, prehistoric, and threatened fish.

The paddlefish can grow to enormous proportions. As a matter of fact, the largest on record was caught in Iowa and weighed a colossal 198 pounds! That's a very big fish. They commonly reach over five feet in length and exceed 60 pounds. Studies estimate that they may live as long as 60 years or more. (Pictures of a couple large catches here and here.)

Fossil records of paddlefish have been found which pre-date the age of dinosaurs by 50 million years. They've made it this far, and now humans are close to wiping them out. They're endangered due to over fishing for their valuable roe, or eggs, which are valued as caviar and destruction of habitat.

Since they filter feed, they're usually caught by snagging, a crude and rather un-sporting method of fishing. This is done by tying a large weighted treble hook onto the line and simply draging it through the water or along the bottom in hopes that it will snag a fish by the gills or in the side or wherever. This is commonly done below dams where a large number of fish congregate.

The U.S. Geological Survey has a very interesting page on a study of paddlefish conducted on the upper Mississippi, complete with movement studies, video, explanation of why they're at risk, and an informative frequently asked questions page which gives a good overview of the fish.


At 8/12/2006 9:07 AM, Blogger Dave Barrett said...

I don't know what the first thing is but the second picture is the head of a snapping turtle.

At 8/12/2006 10:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

With these pictures, it's obvious why the QC hasn't become a tourist destination for scuba divers!


The second picture is a turtle, but I can't tell what the first one is. Are you in a cove somewhere? I've never even really thought about diving the river, and don't know the first thing about how to do that safely.

At 8/12/2006 11:00 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Correct again Dave.... an Alligator Snapping Turtle, to be precise... the largest, nastiest, most prehistoric of river turtles.

The first picture is from the rear... thought a frontal view might be too easy.

Someone out there will get it, I'm sure.

At 8/12/2006 11:01 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is the first one a catfish? The gills are wide open.

At 8/12/2006 11:36 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Huck, Promise not to tell anyone? I really wasn't diving in the river. (though some commercial divers do, and clammers do it on a regular basis)

I do think it would be pretty cool, if it weren't for the fact that the visibility would be so poor that it would be tough to see anything at all unless it was a foot in front of you.

I'll give this a day or two more for other's to have a chance to guess and then all will be revealed, including where I took the pictures. (and no, it's not a catfish)

At 8/12/2006 3:57 PM, Blogger DookOfURL said...

Might be the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque, IA.

At 8/12/2006 4:34 PM, Blogger QuadCityImages said...

Looks like the alligator snapping turtle at the Mississippi River Museum in Dubuque.

I was just there in May but I still don't know what the first one is.

I had a feeling they weren't actual underwater shots...

At 8/12/2006 9:59 PM, Blogger nicodemus said...

Just a guess but are these pictures from that awesome "river museum" in Dubuque that I have heard so much about?

At 8/13/2006 3:19 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Congrats to Dook, Nico, and QCI for correctly guessing that the shots were taken at the truly "awesome" Mississippi River Aquarium in Dubuque.

They have a huge tank which includes blue, channel, and flathead catfish, some which weigh about as much as I do, gar and alligator gar, snapping and other turtles, northern pike, and a huge muskie, along with various other fish indiginous to the river. (including the one pictured on top above... which is, in my opinion, by far the most fascinating fish in the river.)

The facility is much more than an aquarium though, with an enormous former Corp of Engineers dredge ship and other outdoor displays of artifacts from the earlier days of commerce on the river, a river otter pond, and a lot of cool exhibits, including a barge which when you enter it becomes a theatre.

Really a well done museum/aquarium and well worth the trip.

I have about 40 more pictures of the place, but I won't presume to put more up here.

If anyone really would like to see them, let me know and I can slap them up on photobucket so you can view them.

The mystery fish shall be revealed Monday sometime... if no one guesses it by then.

At 8/13/2006 4:28 PM, Blogger ap said...

Could the first one possibly be the elusive Blagojefish, which turns and swims away when it sees an inquisitive reporter with camera in hand?

At 8/14/2006 9:28 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Alas, no, it's not a Blagojefish, but rather the facinating, threatened, and prehistoric Spoonbill, or Paddlefish.

It's closest relative is the sturgeon, and it's skeleton, like the shark's, is nearly all cartilagenous.

It's been overfished for it's delicate white meat and for it's roe or eggs, which is very valuable and sold as caviar.

It's a filter feeder much like whales, and it opens it's wide jaw as it swims and filters out plankton with it's gill rakers, which is what you see in the original picture.

The mouth opening is huge, you could probably fit a basketball in it's mouth easily when it's opened.

Paddlefish fossils have been found which pre-date the dinosaur era by 50 million years.

See the links added to the post for more info.

At 3/18/2009 1:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first picture is a spoonbill swimming away from you with mouth and gills wide open

At 3/18/2009 1:08 PM, Blogger spoonbiller said...

The first picureis a spoonill swimming away with mouth wide open and gills showingfrom behind this is far one of the best tasting fish at the dinner table


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home