A Giant Stingray May Be the World’s Largest Freshwater Fish

A Giant Stingray May Be the World’s Largest Freshwater Fish

For 17 years, Zeb Hogan, a biologist, has been looking for the world’s largest freshwater fish. On June 13, his staff discovered it — a large freshwater stingray, or Urogymnus polylepis.

The ray, hauled out of the murky waters of the Mekong River in Cambodia, measured 13 toes in size earlier than it was returned to the river. And at 661 kilos, it was 15 kilos heavier than a Mekong large catfish caught in Thailand in 2005. Dr. Hogan stated he had beforehand established that freshwater fish as the largest ever caught.

While this species of large stingray has a particularly harmful venomous barb that may attain almost a foot in size, they don’t seem to be normally a menace to people. More typically, they wind up in the market as a supply of low-cost protein.

Fishers in Cambodia first alerted Dr. Hogan and his staff at Wonders of the Mekong Project, which works to guard the Southeast Asian river’s aquatic variety and is sponsored by the US Agency for International Development, that they’d caught a stingray bigger than anybody had ever seen. Team members rushed to the small river island, known as Koh Preah, and lined up three industrial scales. Using a tarp, they hoisted the stingray out of the water and onto the scales to confirm its weight.

The discovery comes lower than a month after one other large stingray — that one weighing 400 kilos — was caught and launched close by. Two different huge rays have additionally been caught this yr.

“The undeniable fact that the world’s largest freshwater fish was caught in the Mekong is exceptional,” Dr. Hogan stated. “This is a closely populated area, and the river faces a ton of challenges, together with plenty of fishing.”

In one other first, Dr. Hogan’s staff was capable of match the stingray with an acoustic tag to trace the animal for as much as one yr with an array of 36 underwater receivers that have been additionally not too long ago put in in a stretch of the river.

“This is the first fish that we have tagged since having the array deployed,” stated Dr. Hogan, who can also be a analysis affiliate professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. In the months forward, they plan to tag tons of of extra fishes.

With so many huge stingrays caught in current months and all of them feminine, Dr. Hogan believes this stretch of the river and the deep swimming pools it comprises are a important breeding floor for the species. The space can also be dwelling to freshwater dolphins, large smooth -shell turtles, large catfish and large barb, which is in the carp household.

“So it is a very distinctive place, and really understudied,” he stated. North American and European river methods obtain way more scientific consideration.

While breaking the world file was not scientifically necessary, Dr. Hogan stated that the existence of this fish is an indicator for the well being of its ecosystem. He additionally hoped the discovery reminds the area people how particular this river is, and the way a lot it is in want of saving.

Because of a mix of things, together with dam development, overfishing and local weather change, huge freshwater fish populations are usually in decline. And many species of massive fish are at risk of disappearing eternally.

“In 2020, one in all the contenders for the world’s largest freshwater fish, generally known as the Chinese paddlefish, was declared extinct,” Dr. Hogan stated. “That was very unhappy information, and it had me feeling like we have been going to see extra extinctions of those huge fish, reasonably than data being damaged.”

Fortunately, the large stingrays will not be the solely large fish tales of late. In 2021, a record-setting 240-pound lake sturgeon was caught and launched in the Detroit River. And in May, an almost 300-pound alligator gar might have damaged the Texas state file for the freshwater fish, although the angler selected to launch the animal reasonably than kill it and produce it in to be weighed.

“When you hear tales about file fish, that is a great signal,” Dr. Hogan stated.

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