The Recently Extinct Plants and Animals Database

Psephurus gladius (Martens, 1862)

Chinese paddlefish, Chinese swordfish, Sword-billed sturgeon, yin yui wei, chin yui



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonym/s: Polyodon gladius Martens, 1862; Spatularia (Polyodon) angustifolium Kaup, 1862:278


Conservation Status

Last record: 2003 (Yibin, Sichuan Province) (wild)1; 2004 (captivity) (source)

IUCN RedList status: Critically Endangered (Possibly Extinct)


The Chinese paddlefish is considered to be functionally extinct. Officially, the last sighting was on the 24th of January, 2003. But it is known that an individual was caught on January 8th, 2007, by illegal fisherman and died shortly thereafter despite an attempt to keep it alive.


1 My thanks to The Sixth Extinction Forum (TSEF) member "ya" (Sue) from China, who pointed out that the reported illegally caught specimen in Hubei Province in 2007 actually refers to a Chinese sturgeon (Acipenser sinensis). Due to a translation error.



China (including Qiantang River, Yangtze River, Yangjian River, Yellow River and Yellow Sea)












Original scientific description:

Martens. (1862). [description of Psephurus gladius]. Monatsb. Akad. Wiss. Berlin [1862]: 476-479.


Other references:

Anonymous (ed.). (1976). Fishes of the Yangtze River. Fishes Study Lab, Institute of Hydrobiology of Hubei Province, Science Press, Beijing, (in Chinese)

Anonymous. (1988). The biology of sturgeons and paddlefish in the Yangtze and their artificial propagation [in Chinese]. Sichuan Scientific and Technical Publishing House, Chengdu, China.

Bemis, W. E, Findeis, E. K. and Grande, L. (1997). An overview of Acipenseriformes. Environ. Biol. Fish. 48: 25-71.

Birstein, V. J. (1993). Sturgeons and paddlefishes: threatened fishes in need of conservation. Conserv. Biol. 7: 773-787.

Deng, Z., Yu, Z., Zhao, Y. and Deng, X. (1987). Evaluation of impact of Three Gorges project on Chinese paddlefish (Psephurus gladius) and Chinese sucker (Myxocyprinus asiaticus) and study of resources conservation. In: Leading team of study programs of ecology and environment of Three Gorges project, Chinese Academy of Sciences (ed) Transactions of studies for impact of Changjiang Three Gorges project on ecology, environment and countermeasures. Science Press, Beijing, pp 42–51, (in Chinese)

Ding, R. (ed.). (1994). The fishes of Sichuan, China. Sichuan Publishing House of Science and Technology, Chengdu, pp 31, (in Chinese)

Fan, X.G., Wei, Q.W., Chang, J., Rosenthal, H., He, J.X., Chen, D.Q., Shen, L., Du, H. and Yang, D.G. (2006). A review on conservation issues in the upper Yangtze River — a last chance for a big challenge: Can Chinese paddlefish (Psephurus gladius), Dabry's sturgeon, (Acipenser dabryanus) and other fish species still be saved? Journal of Applied Ichthyology 22(suppl 1): 32–39.

Fu, C., Wu, J., Chen, J., Wu, Q. and Lei, G. (2003). Freshwater fish biodiversity in the Yangtze River basin of China: patterns, threats and conservation. Biodiversity and Conservation 12: 1649-1685.

Xin Gao, Jian Wei Wang and Sébastien Brosse. (2009). Threatened fishes of the world: Psephurus gladius (Martens, 1862) (Acipenseriformes: polyodontidae). Environmental Biology of Fishes 84(4): 421-422.

Günther, A. (1873). Report on a collection of fishes from China. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist., ser.4 . XII, 239-250.

Hale, R. S., Horne, J. K., Degan, D. J. and Conners, M. E. (2003). Paddlefish as potential acoustic targets for abundance estimates. Trans. Am. Fish. Soc. 132: 746–758.

Jeannette Krieger, Anne Kathrin Hett, Pauk A. Fuerst, Vadim J. Birstein, AND Arne Ludwig. (2006). Unusual Intraindividual Variation of the Nuclear 18S rRNA Gene is Widespread Within the Acipenseridae. Journal of Heredity 97(3): 218-225.

Kaup, 1862:278 (Arch. Naturgeschichte, 28 (1): 278-281).

Li, S. Z. (1965). Discussion on the ichthyofauna in Yellow River. Chinese J. Zool. 7: 217-222.

Liu, Chenhan and Yongjun Zeng. (1988). Notes on the Chinese paddlefish, Psephurus gladius (Martens). Copeia 1988(2): 482-484. [Abstract]

Liu, C. H. (1979). Some materials of the white sturgeon Psephurus gladius (Martens) from the Yangtze River. Inf. Fish. Sci.Techn., Shanghai 1: 13-15.

Li, L., Xu, Z. and Zhang, L. P. (2012). Goezia nankingensis Hsü, 1933 (Nematoda: Raphidascarididae) from the critically endangered Chinese paddlefish Psephurus gladius (Martens) (Acipenseriformes: Polyodontidae). Syst. Parasitol. 82(1): 39-48. [Abstract]

Li, Y., Diao, X. M. and Liu, J. H. (1997). A preliminary study on the morphology, growth of juvenile Psephurus gladius on the upper reaches of the Changjing (Yangtze) River and a survey of its spawning grounds. J. Sou. Agr. Univ. 19, 447–450, (in Chinese with English abstract).

Ma, J., Deng, Z., Deng, X. and Cai, M. (1996). Age determination and growth of Chinese paddlefish Psephurus gladius. Acta Hydrobiol Sin 20: 150–159. (in Chinese)

Mims, Steven D., Georgi, T. A. and Liu, C. H. (1993). The Chinese paddlefish, Psephurus gladius: biology, life history and potential for cultivation. World Aquac. (Spec Rep) 24(1): 46-48.

Mims, Steven D. and Shelton, William L. (eds.). (2015). Paddlefish Aquaculture. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. [Google preview]

Nelson, J. S. (1994). Fishes of the world John Wiley and Sons, Inc. N. York. 2nd ed. 523 pp.

Qiwei, W. (2010). Psephurus gladius. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. ( Downloaded on 01 May 2012.

Robins, C.R., R.M. Bailey, C.E. Bond, J.R. Brooker, E.A. Lachner, R.N. Lea and W.B. Scott, 1991. World fishes important to North Americans. Exclusive of species from the continental waters of the United States and Canada. Am. Fish. Soc. Spec. Publ. (21): 243 pp.

Turvey, Samuel T. et al. (2010). Rapidly Shifting Baselines in Yangtze Fishing Communities and Local Memory of Extinct Species. Conservation Biology 24(3): 778-787.

Wei, Q., F. Ke, J. Zhang, P. Zhuang, J. Luo, R. Zhou, and W. Yang. (1997). Biology, fisheries, and conservation of the sturgeons and paddlefish in China. Environmental Biology of Fishes 48: 241–255.

Wu, Xue-Chang. (2005). The loss of genetic diversity in the Chinese paddlefish (Psephurus gladius Martens) as revealed by DNA fingerprinting. Journal of Genetics 84(3): 323-327.

Xie, P. (2003). Three-Gorges Dam: risk to ancient fish. Science 302: 1149–1150.

YARSG (Yangtze Aquatic Resources Survey Group). (1988). The Biology of the Sturgeons and Paddlefish in the Yangtze River and their artificial propagation. Sichuan Scientific and Technical Publishing House, Chengdu, China (in Chinese with English abstract).

Yinuo Ji "Interactive device design for ecological protection based on extinction of Chinese paddlefish", Proc. SPIE 11887, International Conference on Sensors and Instruments (ICSI 2021), 1188710 (2 July 2021);

Yun, L., Xiaoming, D. and Jianhu, J. (1997). A preliminary study on the morphology, growth of juvenile Psephurus gladius on the upper reaches of the Changjiang River and a survey of its spawning grounds. Journal of Southwest Agriculture University 5: 448-450.

Zhang, Hui, Jarić, Ivan et al. (In Press, 2019). Extinction of one of the world's largest freshwater fishes: Lessons for conserving the endangered Yangtze fauna. Science of the Total Environment. doi: [Abstract]

H. Zhang, Q. W. Wei, H. Du, L. Shen, Y. H. Li and Y. Zhao. (2009). Is there evidence that the Chinese paddlefish (Psephurus gladius) still survives in the upper Yangtze River? Concerns inferred from hydroacoustic and capture surveys, 2006–2008. Journal of Applied Ichthyology 25(suppl. 2): 95-99. [automatic download]

Zhong, Y., Bin, Z. and Jianbo, C. (2008). DNA extraction formalin-fixed tissue of Psephurus gladius and the applicability of microsatellite primers developed from its related species. Journal of Lake Sciences 20(2): 242-250.

Zhu, S.-Q. (1995). Synopsis of freshwater fishes of China. Jiangsu Science and Technology Publishing House. i-v + 1-549. [In Chinese, English summary]


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