Flathead Catfish

Name: Flathead Catfish 
Scientific name: Pylodictis olivaris
Range: Rivers in the Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio basins; as far north as North Dakota, as far west as New Mexico, and south to the Gulf including eastern Mexico; statewide in Texas, also found in limited areas of Florida 
Habitat: Large rivers and tributaries
Status: Not threatened 
Diet in the wild: Bass, bream, shad, crayfish, aquatic insects, and other catfish 
Diet in the zoo: A special food called grind, and Kacklin fish 
Location in the zoo:  James R. Record Aquarium

{short description of image}
Physical description:  The flathead catfish is typically yellow to light brown colored on the dorsal and sides.  The belly is typically yellow or cream and flatheads are mottled with brown and/or black.  The flathead as well as all catfish are scale-less fish.  The flathead of course has the customary long barbels about the mouth that resemble whiskers, hence the name "catfish".  The head of the flathead is flattened and their lower is jaw is extremely huge.  Interestingly, the young flathead looks nothing in color like the adult, the young is sometimes black until adulthood.

General information:  The flathead catfish has a huge range that encompasses numerous states in the United States and Mexico.  Flatheads are native the entire state and of Texas are fished heavily in Texas as well as wherever they may dwell.  Female flatheads can lay up to 100,000 eggs and these eggs are guarded by one adult male.  The adult male guards these eggs with his life and will fight to protect them.  Adult males are usually "loners" that prefer the deeper waters or the cover of a log, rock, or shade from a tree.  The world record for the biggest flathead catfish caught is 91.25 pounds, caught in Lake Lewisville, Texas.  Flatheads have been observed and aged up to 19 years old, but it is likely that they live much longer than 19 years. 
Special anatomical, physiological or behavioral adaptations:  Flatheads are extremely strong fish and put up a fight for fishermen.  Flatheads are hard to fish due to their extreme solitary habits, night time is considered the best time to catch them.  It may be concluded that since most adult flatheads are solitary they really do not care about other flatheads, so they resort to cannibalism and eat their own on occasion.  Since they are predators and consume other fish it is no surprise that they can get very large and heavy.  "The barbels contain taste organs and thus in a sense are an extension of the tongue.  This is logical since the majority of catfishes are active at dusk and at night and need a supplementary organ to detect food" (Grzimek 363).

{short description of image}Comments about the flathead catfishes of the Fort Worth Zoo: The flatheads at the zoo are huge and weigh up to 50 pounds, with a length of 4 feet. "It is not possible to tell what sex they are at the moment," Anita Jones stated.  The flatheads at the zoo are fed a special mix called grind and are also fed Kacklin fish, since they are predators in the wild. 
Personal observations:  The flatheads at the Fort Worth Zoo are rather large and you can see their huge whiskers.  They always seem to look angry and bump into the glass of their aquarium.  You can see quite a ways down their huge mouths and it is obvious that they are heavy eaters.  They probably are angry because they can not be in solitude like they prefer in their natural habitat. 
Source Materials and Related Links:

Texas Parks and Wildlife: Entry on Flathead Catfish
USGS: Species Account for Flathead Catfish

The New Encyclopaedia Britannica. Vol. 2, Bayeu-Ceanothus. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., Chicago. 1987. Page 950 
Grzimek, Dr. Bernhard. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia. Fishes, Vol. 4. Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, New York. 1973. Pages 363-364 
Jones, Anita. Zoo keeper at the Fort Worth Zoo. Conversation on 4-14-99. 

Author:  Jason Paul Flores 
Email: jflores@bmsmanagement.com

{short description of image}
WhoZoo Home
Animal Index
Fish Index

This site is Anfy Java Enhanced