The world's largest freshwater fish are losing the fight for survival, as pollution, overfishing, and construction threaten the rivers and lakes they call home.
So earlier this year ecologist Zeb Hogan launched the Megafishes Project, a three-year effort to document the 20-some species of freshwater fish at least 6.5 feet (2 meters) in length or 220 pounds (100 kilograms) in weight (profiles of the megafishes).
The project is designed not only to raise awareness of the animals' plight, but to highlight the increasingly dire situation of the world's water sources.
Join National Geographic News on the trail with Hogan as he tracks down and studies these real-life "Loch Ness monsters": leviathans such as the Mekong giant catfish, the giant freshwater stingray, the arapaima, and the Chinese paddlefish.
(The Megafishes project is funded by the National Geographic Society, which owns National Geographic News.)
| Part One: Megafishes Project to Size Up Real "Loch Ness Monsters" (July 24, 2007)|
The three-year project aims to document the world's largest freshwater fishes, from giant catfish to half-ton stingrays.
• Photo Gallery: Bear-Size Catfish, Half-Ton Stingrays Among World's "Monster" Fishes
• Photo Gallery: 8-Foot Giant Catfish Caught in Cambodia
| Part Two: World's Largest River Fish Feared Extinct (July 26, 2007)|
Chinese paddlefish have not been seen in the Yangtze River since 2003 and are likely on the path to extinction, scientists warn.
| Part Three: "Living Fossil" Fish Making Last Stand in China (August 15, 2007)|
The half-ton fish are known as China's "pandas under the water," but they'll soon vanish from the wild unless a new breeding program can save it.
| Part Four: World's Largest Trout Thrives in Mongolia—For Now (November 14, 2007)|
For the ferocious, cannibalistic taimen, one of the world's biggest freshwater fishes, Mongolia's remote rivers are its last hope.
• Photo Gallery: Taimen's Last Refuge Is Mongolia
• Video: Biggest Trout Fished in Asia
| Part Five: World's Largest Shark Species at Risk, Expert Says (January 17, 2008)|
Whale sharks are coming under pressure from overfishing and habitat degradation, putting the world's biggest fish in urgent need of protection, says biologist Zeb Hogan.
| Part Six: World's Largest Catfish Species Threatened by Dam (April 8, 2008)|
The largest freshwater fish ever caught, the Mekong giant catfish, could face extinction if a large dam is completed in Laos, experts say.
| Part Seven: Giant River Stingrays Found Near Thai City (April 29, 2008)|
Fourteen-foot-long rays—perhaps the largest freshwater fish—are thriving not far from Bangkok. But overfishing may still threaten the giants.
| Part Eight: "Monster" Lake's Rare Giants Lure Anglers, Biologists (July 15, 2008)|
A 7-acre (2.8-hectare) lake is one of several created in recent years near Bangkok for anglers who want to hook some of the world's most exotic fish.
| Part Nine: Giant Prehistoric Fish Rebounding in Canada (November 13, 2008)|
The white sturgeon, North America's largest freshwater fish, has bounced back in the Fraser River thanks to an unprecedented volunteer effort including fishermen and aboriginal groups.
Free Email News Updates
Sign up for our Inside National Geographic newsletter. Every two weeks we'll send you our top stories and pictures (see sample).
SOURCES AND RELATED WEB SITES