Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Robert Hoyt, Blaine Ferrell, Gary Dillard

Degree Program

Department of Biology

Degree Type

Master of Science


The reproductive biology of the paddlefish (Polyodon spathula) was studied on specimens collected from Lake Cumberland, Kentucky, from September 1983 to July 1984. A total of 500 specimens was studied. Reproductive activity was observed on 17 April 1984 in the Big South Fork of Lake Cumberland. Seasonal differences were observed in sex ratios with more males than females occurring in the winter and spring. Movements were observed throughout the year, but these were accentuated prior to reproduction in the spring. Lake Cumberland paddlefish became sexually mature by Age Group V in males and VIII in females. In the spring, gravid females were found only in upstream spawning areas while non-gravid females occurred throughout the rest of the lake. This supported the alternating year spawning hypothesis for females of this species; mature males were found in all lake locations sampled at this time. Gonad development in Lake Cumberland paddlefish started in September-October and continued progressively throughout the year until egg release. Gonad fat bodies responded inversely with gonad development, progressively decreasing in size as the gonads increased. The liver and throat fat bodies did not show this weight correlation but were concluded to be important in the energetics of the gonads. Coefficients of condition for Lake Cumberland paddlefish corresponded closely with gonad development. Condition values for Lake Cumberland paddlefish were greater than those reported in the literature. This supported the idea that the optimum habitat for paddlefish is in lakes rather than rivers. The estimated average annual fecundity for Lake Cumberland paddlefish was similar to that reported in other studies. No relationship was seen between number of eggs and fish size. All sexually mature males and some females exhibited prominent secondary sexual characteristics.


Biology | Life Sciences | Marine Biology