The Puzzle of the Paddle

Understanding the Paddlefish

  • Laura Tangley
  • Aug 01, 2007
WHY DOES THE Mississippi River paddlefish sport a strange paddlelike snout, or rostrum, that can grow up to a third the length of its body? Observers once suspected the fish used the paddle to dig up vegetation from river bottoms. But University of Missouri biologists Lon Wilkens and Michael Hofmann recently discovered that the rostrum is peppered with electrosensory receptors, which the scientists say the fish uses to locate its microscopic zooplankton prey.

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